Former URSU president Wiskar clarifies comments as other providers remain adamant
This piece has been updated to reflect new information since the article’s publication.
Reporting on URSU’s decision to switch healthcare providers from Studentcare, which has been serving the student body for the past 16 years, to Waterloo-based student healthcare company Gallivan, continues to shed light on how the board made this decision.
In the article published in the Carillon on Feb. 23, former URSU President Sean Wiskar, who served during the time period when URSU decided to switch providers, described the decision-making process as follows:
“We effectively had three companies [Studentcare, Gallivan and Green Shield] in mind and then, through informal conversations with them and then them giving us quoted prices, it became clear that there were really only two competitors.”
Since that article was published, representatives from Studentcare and Green Shield have reached out to deny Wiskar’s claim that any sort of informal discussion took place at all.
“[What Wiskar said] is false,” said Studentcare CEO Lev Bukhman. “This simply never happened. We categorically deny ever giving URSU a ‘quoted price’ for the September 2020 or any subsequent policy year. It was never asked for by URSU. … We also never engaged in ‘informal discussions’ or any discussions at all regarding the renewal of our agreement which ends August 31, 2020. … Mr. Wiskar’s comments are therefore completely false and misleading and suggest some type of review or selection process that in fact, never actually happened, formally or informally. URSU seems to have only ever considered one cost – from the other company – and you cannot claim something is “significantly less expensive” if you only have one number to consider!”
Marnie Elliott, account executive for student business at Green Shield Canada, also confirmed that Green Shield never provided a quote to service the U of R.
When asked to account for Bukhman and Elliott’s responses, Wiskar said he misspoke in the original interview and clarified his statement. Rather than obtaining quotes from the companies directly, Wiskar now says he and the URSU board at the time got their price and service-comparisons from other Canadian student unions.
“I know a lot of the conversations were more-so just talking with our student union counterparts about what kind of service they were getting from providers,” he amended. “A lot of it came from that. In terms of having an actual conversation with Green Shield, I might have actually misspoken – I’m not sure if we reached out directly to them. I’m pretty sure what I was trying to indicate … is that we had reached out to people that were using Green Shield, and they effectively told us that it wasn’t something they thought it was worth for us to pursue. And that’s how it got narrowed down to Studentcare and Gallivan.”
Wiskar also said that the URSU board at the time did not need to ask Studentcare for a quote because they already had access to that information.
“Because we were with Studentcare already, we were getting quotes from them for what the upcoming year was, and so effectively we were already kind of in talks with them over what the healthcare plan was,” Wiskar said. “There wasn’t any specific ‘hey, we’re looking at switching,’ but they were fully aware that our contract was coming to an end.”
However, Bukhman is adamant this did not take place as Wiskar claimed, and that Studentcare never had the opportunity to provide URSU with a quote that would have allowed them to make a price comparison to Gallivan. The highlighting in the below quote is from Studentcare.
“We absolutely DID NOT provide URSU with a quote for the upcoming 2020/2021 year,” he wrote in an email when asked about Wiskar’s description of events. “And unless URSU can provide with a document showing such a quote (which they cannot, since it does not exist, unless they resort to forgery), you must state that as a fact and not as a ‘claim.’ … We did not give them a quote. Green Shield did not give them a quote. There were no informal conversations. This is the heart of the lie: no quotes were given, no options were considered. There cannot be a consideration or a comparison if only one option is on the table. That’s the lie.”
Current URSU board president Victor Oriola could not be reached for comment at this time.
Currently, the combined health and dental plan annual fee for the U of R and First Nations’ University of Canada undergraduates taking nine or more Fall semester credit hours, or graduate students taking six or more fall semester credit hours, is $218.50.
Bukhman’s company studentcare has been associated with issues in campus politics before, such as a dispute at Concordia University between the students’ union and two executives over a “perceived conflict of interest” in 2018 — as reported by The Link. The issue was later resolved in a letter from the students’ union clarifying to studentcare that the issue was a matter of internal reporting by executives and not a personal issue with Bukhman. Bukhman has also claimed previously that he rejected paying a bribe as part of his work with CSU This comes amid allegations by an URSU board member of a lack of professionalism when Studentcare did present to the board.