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Idaho university forces students on Medicaid to buy private insurance or drop out

Brigham Young University-Idaho is forcing students to make a difficult choice between their education or affordable healthcare.

Idaho university forces students on Medicaid to buy private insurance or drop out

Update: The University has now reversed its decision. "Brigham Young University-Idaho will once again recognize Medicaid as health insurance, reversing a decision earlier this month that would have forced students enrolled in the free government program to buy private coverage or drop out." Here is the latest update.

Earlier this month, Brigham Young University-Idaho informed their students via email that they would have to enroll in a private insurance program if they were on Medicaid. If they chose not to, they would be left with no other option but to drop out. For many students currently studying at Brigham Young, the educational institution is a less expensive option in comparison to its counterparts. The cheapest private insurance plan is offered by the university itself, however, it does not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections. Therefore, many have been left confused and disappointed by the university's decision, The New York Times reports.


Emily and Kullen Langston are only two of the individuals who would be severely affected by the decision. Emily, a student at Brigham-Young, enrolled in Medicaid last year when she discovered she was pregnant with the couple's now-four-month-old daughter. Meanwhile, her husband Kullen currently works as a call center operator and is the sole breadwinner in the family. He hoped to gain admission at the university later on and was planning to enroll in the free insurance program in January 2020, when Medicaid plans to expand in the state. Emily now has two dismal options: enroll in the university insurance program, which would cost her a whopping $3,125 annual premium, or simply drop out. "I’m disappointed that they’re showing prejudice against those of us who are poor right now," she sadly stated. "I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be able to finish school."


At present, it is unclear how many students are currently on Medicaid. Nonetheless, according to state projections, about 2,400 more people in Madison County would enroll in Medicaid as a result of the upcoming expansion. In response to this, the Brigham Young warned that having too many students sign up for the public program "would be impractical for the local medical community." This assertion has been debunked by a local hospital official. It has been theorized that the policy decision will persuade more students into a health plan managed by Deseret Mutual Benefits Administration, which, similar to the university, is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


This health plan actually violates the Affordable Care Act — it does not provide annual benefits or cover birth control — except for a small Obama-era loophole that creates an exemption for universities that fund their own health plans. Erin Hemlin, who looks over health policy at Young Invincibles, a nonprofit organization that works on issues affecting college students and young adults, explained, "It seems like a loophole, and is pretty misleading to students. It’s called a student health plan, so you would think it’s going to be comprehensive coverage, and it isn’t." The loophole was created for large institutions with heavy endowments, such as the University of California, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton. These institutions' health plans were changed when the policy was in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act - Brigham Young's was not. Now, hundreds of students may be faced with a difficult ultimatum — their education or affordable healthcare. In the richest developed country in the world, this shouldn't be a choice that any young adult has to make.


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