University of Manitoba Canada
The University of Manitoba is looking for ways to help provide free healthcare for 5000 foreign students. Source: Viktoriya Polyvyana/ Shutterstock

The Progressive Conservative government of Manitoba in Canada has repealed access to universal healthcare for international students, which will come into effect in September.

Post-secondary students from overseas studying in Manitoba were previously granted free access to the state’s healthcare system in 2012, but as of the Fall semester they and their spouses’ and dependents’ access to universal healthcare will be revoked.

“Since it was free here, it made it much easier, less complicated than having to worry about paying,” Efe Erhie, a student from Nigeria at the University of Manitoba (U of M) told CBC News. “It was a big issue when I was considering Manitoba.”

The changes will likely see international students having to fork out an additional CA$2400-$3600 (US$1900-$2800) for health coverage per year. The government says it will save CA$3.1 million (US$2.4 million) through the amendments.

“One of the main reasons why international students go to Manitoba is because of the health plan,” said Mary Asekome, international students commissioner of the Canadian Federation of Students as quoted by CBC News.

An opinion piece in the U of M’s student newspaper The Manitoban called the move “inhumane”. “Access to basic healthcare and the welcoming nature of Manitobans contribute to the decision of international students to move to and stay in the province,” it said.

“If Manitoba wants to continue attracting international students, retaining the basic health coverage will demonstrate it values their contributions and that they are welcome in the province.”

The U of M has said it is looking into ways along with “other post-secondary institutions” to help provide health coverage for 5000 international students for a year, reported Winnipeg Free Press.

The Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador all still offer universal public healthcare to international students.

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