Sunday New York Times reports on BYU-Idaho's medicaid controversy

(File photo)

REXBURG – Brigham Young University-Idaho’s controversial plans to force students to buy private or university health care insurance is being reported nationwide.

The Sunday New York Times included a story about the situation with a headline stating, “University to Students on Medicaid: Buy Private Coverage or Drop Out.”

The publication reported how students currently relying on Medicaid are considering dropping out of school because of the added cost. It interviewed Emily and Kullen Langston who planned on enrolling at BYU-Idaho in the winter. The couple is facing a $3,125 annual premium to comply with the university’s new requirements. As a result of the change in BYU-Idaho’s health care plan policy, Emily Langston plans to drop out of school. It wasn’t clear what her husband planned to do.

“I’m disappointed that they’re showing prejudice against those of us who are poor right now,” Ms. Langston said. “I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be able to finish school.”

The story of BYU-Idaho’s change in health care policy has also been reported in the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina and closer to home in the Idaho Statesman and the Salt Lake Tribune. A petition has also been created on change.org in hopes of getting enough signatures to change the university’s policy. So far 11,813 of the hoped for 15,000 have signed the petition.

The publication noted that BYU-Idaho sent an e-mail to its 19,000 students about the change last week and that students were angry and confused.

“The university warned that having too many students sign up for the public program ‘would be impractical for the local medical community,’ an assertion a local hospital official rejects,” wrote the New York Times.

Last week, Madison Memorial Hospital spokesman Doug McBride told the Standard Journal that the hospital had not expressed concern over acquiring more Medicaid patients, and that Madison County has a strong medical community ready to handle the county’s needs.

Complete Family Care family nurse practitioner, Nichole Jeppeson, said she wasn’t worried about treating more Medicaid patients.

“It can increase our business,” she said. “We currently take Medicaid patients, and we have enough providers to meet the needs of an increasing population and the Medicaid expansion.”

The New York Times reported that the university’s health care change takes effect January 1, and about the same time that an additional 70,000 low-income Idaho residents would be enveloped into the Medicaid system. The publication reported that an estimated 2,400 more people in Madison County, would sign up for the program thanks to the expansion. It wasn't known how many of those 2,400 were students or how many students at BYU-Idaho were on Medicaid.

BYU-Idaho students may still apply for and use Medicaid coverage, but to stay in school, they’ll also have buy other health insurance. The other BYU campuses in Provo and Hawaii still allow students to use Medicaid as their required health insurance to stay in school.

BYU-Idaho remains mum on its decision and has asked that its student media not report on the issue.

For more information on the New York Times article visit https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/us/medicaid-students-brigham-young.html.