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Students, are you paying for health and dental insurance twice?

Postsecondary education isn't getting cheaper, but there are some lesser-known methods of saving a few bucks that students and parents might appreciate. One of them involves health and dental insurance.

Yes, you read that right. There are many Canadian families who could be saving thousands of dollars - and they don't even know it.

During the overwhelming matriculation and orientation weeks, families might be unaware that students are automatically enrolled into group benefit plans. The premiums are often included in the student union or society fees.

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These plans cover expenses not covered by provincial health insurance, such as certain prescription drugs, prosthetics, mobility devices, and more. Dental plans include a large portion of most basic dental exams and procedures. The plans can be great for those who desire group health and dental benefits, since premiums can be one-fifth the cost of individual plans, according to the University of Guelph Central Student Association's website.

These fees, especially if not required, can add up. For example, the annual health and dental premiums at the University of Toronto are collectively $262.34 for the 2013-2014 school year. Over a four year degree, that's over $1,000.

For students without existing coverage, that's not a bad deal. But if you are already covered through existing private or group plans your parents have at work, you might be able to partially or completely opt out - with proof of alternate coverage.

Every school's plans are slightly different. For example, at the University of Guelph you can opt out of the dental plan, but not the health plan. At the University of Toronto, you can opt out of both, with proof of alternate coverage only required for opting out of the health benefits.

One important thing to note is that any opt outs generally have a deadline of a few weeks after classes begin. For example, UofT students have until October 4th. After that, you're on the hook whether you need the benefits or not.

If you are like most students, you very likely don't know whether you have health or dental coverage through any existing plans your parents have. So the first step is to find out. If you do have coverage already, contact your campus to find out how much you could be saving.

Preet Banerjee, a personal finance expert, is the host of Million Dollar Neighbourhood on The Oprah Winfrey Network. You can read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @preetbanerjee.

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