This editorial was published by the Post Register of Idaho Falls.
Brigham Young University-Idaho is denying its students the opportunity to access cost-free health care through Medicaid expansion without explanation.
Students there, like at many schools, are required to carry health insurance. But BYU-Idaho announced that Medicaid won’t fulfill that requirement, meaning students who could have free health care will have to pay the university for its plan.
The suddenly announced policy shocked many students last week, and the shock was all the greater because the university has refused to explain itself. Not to this newspaper nor the Rexburg Standard Journal. Not to the university’s own student newspaper. Not even to the students.
Medicaid expansion offers those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level insurance at no cost. Instead, a student will have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars each year (including when they aren’t taking classes) for a plan that provides inferior coverage to Medicaid.
Students will still be able to get on Medicaid, which will fill in gaps in the plan offered by the university, but they will receive no discernible benefit for these considerable costs.
It is often alleged that the federal government spends inefficiently, but this private university rule makes the most bloated, top-heavy government program look like a well-oiled machine.
Medicaid expansion is a policy that was tailor-made for populations like those attending BYU-Idaho: young and in a temporary position of relative poverty, but with a high expectation that they’ll do well and contribute in the future. Relieving the financial burden of the costly U.S. health care system from these students and their young families until they get on their feet is not just a good example of how Medicaid expansion can produce long-term benefit for our state, it is the example par excellence.
In the absence of clear information — and especially when the reasons for such a decision are deliberately kept hidden — it is only natural for speculation to rule the day.
Students might wonder whether this decision has anything to do with federal law relating to abortion, contraception or other areas of health care where religious beliefs could conflict with health care practice.
But that makes no sense. All sorts of U.S. health care providers don’t offer these services, some because they’re in conflict with their religious beliefs, others because those simply aren’t the services they provide.
There is no indication from local hospitals that there is a shortage of doctors willing to take Medicaid at present. Even if there were, shouldn’t students be offered an informed choice of whether to take on the university’s health plan?
And this policy is apparently unique to BYU-Idaho. The central BYU campus at Provo, Utah, has and will continue to accept Medicaid as proof of insurance.
With a total informational vacuum, the natural conclusion that any student will draw is that they are being bilked. Why would anyone want someone to have two redundant insurance policies, they might wonder, unless they’re in the business of selling insurance?
BYU-Idaho would serve its students well by promptly reversing this policy. Absent that, they at least owe students frank answers.