Health insurance companies to cover foreign students hit by school closures

Thursday 19 June 2014 07.22
Students have staged protests over college closures in recent weeks
Students have staged protests over college closures in recent weeks

Insurance companies that provided health policies for students attending two language colleges that closed unexpectedly seven weeks ago have told RTÉ News that they will provide all students with full cover.

Three companies were involved in providing the cover: brokers Kavanagh Wealth Management, Blue Insurance and underwriters WR Berkley.

The companies had said certificates they issued were not valid because the colleges had not passed on the students’ premiums.

However, this evening Blue Insurance said the three companies have collectively taken a decision to fund the cost of providing full cover to all impacted students who paid for insurance.

It said the underwriter would be communicating the decision to all impacted students over the next couple of days.

The students had been told that health insurance policies they paid and received certificates for are invalid.

Students of Eden College and IBS on Dublin's Burgh Quay were told by their insurers that the colleges did not pass on the premium and so their certificates were not valid.

Non-EU students are required by immigration regulations to have insurance in place.

RTÉ News spoke to one young student from Brazil, who suffered a stroke three weeks ago and spent six days in hospital as a result.

During her stay she was told by the hospital that the insurers told them that her policy was invalid. She received a bill for just over €4,000.

One day after she was discharged the underwriters wrote to Eden and IBS students informing them that their policies were not valid, because their premiums had not been received from the colleges.

However students had received certificates outlining cover and stating in capital letters that the document was deemed to be a receipt in respect of payment.

The Brazilian student RTÉ spoke to said she cannot afford to pay this bill.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn earlier said students left stranded by the closure of English language schools will be offered heavily-discounted rates at alternative schools.

Mr Quinn said students affected would remain on their student visas and it was his hope that no "bona fide students" left high and dry will be left in difficulty.

He said hardship cases would be looked at individually.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the minister said a clean-up of the sector was under way after some schools not complying with visa regulations shut their doors overnight.

"Clearly because of the buoyancy of the Irish labour market over the last ten years a lot of people were attracted into the Irish market and this was a particular side effect, which wasn't dealt with in the past", he said.

The Department of Justice this afternoon issued a statement saying students’ immigration status will not be affected by the failure of colleges to pass on premiums to insurers.

It said: “Non-EU students are required by immigration regulations to have insurance in place. 

“However the minister has confirmed that any failure of any of the closed colleges to pass on the premium to the insurer will in no way affect the student's immigration status. 

“Her department has previously been in contact with the Garda Síochána in relation to the financial conduct of the colleges in question and will pursue the issue of insurance also.”

The department said students have been told by their supposed insurer that they are not in fact covered should forward a copy of the certificate issued by the college, any correspondence from the broker, and any receipts from the college in relation to medical insurance to Student Insurance, INIS, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.