The BYU-Idaho Medicaid Controversy: A View From the Ground

Kristine A is a 2004 BYU-Idaho graduate and an accountant who was preparing for grad school to be a Mormon historian until 3 kids under 2 disrupted her plans. She is a Wheat and Tares blogger on hiatus, reluctantly lives in Rexburg, and is extremely online. 

Why were the LDS Church, DMBA, and BYU-Idaho in the New York Times over the weekend? The drama began, as most things do up in this neck of the woods, in the Rexburg community Facebook group. On November 11, the mother of a student posted that her son had been told Idaho Medicaid no longer counted as adequate insurance for the mandatory insurance coverage rule and that he’d be charged for the DMBA student health plan. Most people didn’t believe the claim from the student’s mother, but by the end of the day a student had posted a copy of the waiver her husband had picked up at the school that confirmed the rumor. When the husband picked up the form the employees at the health center told him the decision was from SLC and would be applying to all CES schools. Other students throughout the day contacted the Student Health Center (SHC) and were told the decision was from the Church Board of Education.

My resulting tweet of the facts I’d seen reported in that thread went viral enough that a BYU Health Center administrator was in my mentions disputing the report. Before back tracking what I’d shared, since I was receiving different info from different spaces, I waited to hear official word. Within 24 hours of my original tweet the BYU account confirmed they were not involved. At this point reporters DM’d me and I coordinated where to find information and who they could talk to.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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BYU-Idaho still wasn’t talking, but the growing discontent on social media was starting to get out of hand. Finally on the morning of the 13th, BYUI sent out an email to Medicaid students on the waiver—even ones who had filed for and been approved for a  waiver mere weeks ago—to let them know that “Medicaid is no longer a viable substitute to waive the Student Health Plan.” They provided no justification for their decision.

To be clear, a month before Christmas these students were informed they now had to pay $536/student/semester $2130/family/semester (year round 3-semester coverage required) by January (or find another commercial plan that was ACA compliant and valid in Rexburg http://www.byui.edu/health-center/student-health-plan) if they wanted to stay enrolled. Medicaid already provides full coverage so the additional policy they are being forced to pay is unnecessary. Numbers aren’t being released as to how many people this concerns but BYU-Idaho has 20,600 on campus students. Single students comprise 75% of that number I assume are covered on their parents’ plans up until age 26. Married students can be covered as well but maternity services aren’t available, so the remaining ~5000 married students would be especially affected if trying to start and raise families while going to school. The Medicaid Expansion voter initiative approved by Idaho voters goes into effect January 2020. Madison County, population approximately 30,000, has the highest poverty rate in the state at 42%, in part due to the LDS student population. 6,420 people are on Medicaid in Madison County and the state estimated 2,900 may sign up in the area, though not all of those are students.

BYU-Idaho’s lack of explanation was fueling speculation, as were their own employees at the Student Health Center. Students were reporting being told, among other things, that the school didn’t want to overwhelm the local medical community with new enrollees, that accepting Idaho Medicaid but not Medicaid from other states would result in discrimination, or that the school had “moral concerns” both about what Medicaid covered and about what it would force the local medical providers to do. One student met with an admin at the SHC and was given a lecture about how Medicaid expansion didn’t just effect students, they needed to stop being so selfish and realize that it would affect the local community and property taxes and rent would be going up. They were also telling students not to rely what they hear on social media because everyone was spreading false reports to make them look bad. Hmmm.

Over that first weekend, on Saturday the 16th, students from the FB protest group that had been created a few days earlier met on campus to organize. In the comments of the Facebook live video a student employee at KBYI reported they’d been banned from covering the story. An alum who is actively involved in the group confirmed it with a friend who worked there the next day. On Monday the 18th a tweet of mine about silencing student media went viral. More reporters filled my inbox as a result, and I once again helped coordinate sources for them. The resulting Post Register and Religion News Service articles from the situation include anonymous sources from the BYU-Idaho Scroll confirming the gag order (and includes leaked audio of a staff meeting! Leakers, take a bow!).

On Wednesday the 20th, the school finally broke the silence with a justification:

“Due to the healthcare needs of the tens of thousands of students enrolled annually on the campus of BYU-Idaho, it would be impractical for the local medical community and infrastructure to support them with only Medicaid coverage. However, many private insurance plans can cover the insurance waiver. Students are encouraged to find the insurance coverage that works best for them. The BYU-Idaho Student Health Plan will continue to be an option. Help in finding acceptable plans can be found by contacting the Student Health Center.”

Since the news broke this had been one of the rumored reasons and Clay Prince, a local family practice owner had already debunked this as a reason in the community group on the 13th, “Speaking as both a community physician and a local hospital administrator, I can say that no one from BYU-I has asked the local medical community whether Medicaid expansion might “overwhelm” local resources. I can also say that, if they did ask, the answer would be ‘No.’” News reporters would continue to interview the medical community, and all have given the same message.

These poor (literally and figuratively!) students have been given the definition of the runaround. They’ve met with Student Health Center admin and been given no answers or options. When students try to discuss how they have evidence debunking the school’s justification, they were told the school did speak with medical community members but admin refuses to say who. The highest-level administrator most have been able to meet with is Brett Cook, manager of auxiliary services (the profit producing arm of administration, no logical reason why student physical and mental health services are organized this way). Bro. Cook when with one student, when pressed, said he was in the meeting where the decision had been made before retracting the statement minutes later. He also told the student all of the press coverage was a steaming pile of garbage and the school had no intention of reversing the policy. I mean, if you’re just leaking a dozen reasons from different sources with only one implausible official reason – yeah, it’s going to be a garbage fire for you. The one line they are giving students now is that there is an emergency needs-based grant they can go into financial aid to apply for. They’ll only be approved after they ask their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders for help. They have to prove they can’t work more hours at a job and show how they’ll change their actions to not need it again in the future.

One student went through the goose chase all on his own before he even knew about the public FB protest group. He joined and shared his experience of applying for this emergency grant that the school is eager to solve the problem with:

The third time I went to the financial aid office they finally let me meet with a counselor, who told me that I didn’t qualify for aid, but if I listed the assets I’d be willing to sell they would be willing to raise the cap on my loans. I responded “Let me make sure I understand. If I prove to you that I have sufficiently abased myself to be worthy of help, you will allow me to further into debt to pay for superfluous insurance?” and her response was “Yes, that’s correct. I’m sorry if that is frustrating to you.” It’s embarrassing to ask for help in the first place. It’s embarrassing to my parents that I have to detail their financial struggles as well. It’s frustrating to have to ask my bishop to help me pay for health insurance I don’t want or need. Also, the formal requirements to prove I’m worthy to be helped is frustrating enough, but there is usually an informal expectation that I tell my whole medical history and financial woes to everyone I talk to before they will pass me along to the person I actually need to talk to. I’ve been outright accused of lying about how poor I am twice, and had comments like “You sure dress well for someone on government assistance” a few times. Not to mention “That’s what you get for relying on socialism” and “Welcome to the real world.” Just to be clear, it’s not university officials saying things like that. Those are the responses I get from student employees while I’m looking for who to talk to.

In addition, there have been multiple families reporting one or more spouses will now have to drop out of school, many of their stories were covered in the Salt Lake Tribune and New York Times.

I cannot overstate how outraged I am about this. First BYU-Idaho gives no reason and then give an obviously bad reason means that the real reason is much worse than what they are publicly acknowledging–or else they’d come clean and lessen the furor. I don’t believe it comes down to all one reason, but in the spirit of internet speculation here is the best list of justification I can come up with:

  • The first thing everyone jumps to is saying this is a “cash grab.” That’s not necessarily how I would describe if they do have concerns of solvency of their DMBA student plan. I’m not sure how accurate this concern could be since the state estimated less than 3,000 new enrollees for the county, and only a portion of that is students. The NYT has a pretty good explainer of how the BYUs have become the last holdouts under ACA of rejecting real insurance for self-funded group pools, thus giving them freedom to not have to conform to ACA requirements.
  • I’ve heard through the grapevine that administration has long wanted to get all their students off public health plans. This could be for ideological reasons; thinking it’s creeping socialism or to get students “off the dole.” Administration could have seen the expansion as a perfect time to try to make it happen.
  • I have an anonymous source who has heard from a fairly high-level employee that the decision comes from Salt Lake and BYU-Idaho is a test market to see how it goes. I have no reason to doubt this report, especially as it was the first story out of the student health center before they realized this would become a “thing.” If it is untrue it means that their own high-level employees are either ignorant or engaged in misinformation and deflection.
  • Students were told “moral concerns” were a motivating factor. On campus health care providers have already been telling students for years that DMBA can’t offer contraception or they’d be forced by the government to cover abortion (this isn’t true, according to healthcare.gov contraception required would cap out at emergency contraception, i.e. Plan B, which does not end pregnancies and can only prevent them). In addition, I’ve heard a student say they were told Medicaid would force local doctors to perform services against their conscience alluding to abortion, which a local told them is not true. I wonder if they are worried a transgender person would seek out services under Medicaid and this has something to do with their worried about religious freedom / LGBTQ rights.
  • The right-wing republicans in the Idaho legislature have a motivation for keeping as many people as possible outraged over Medicaid expansion. They still are hoping to overturn it, and our former Area Authority, C. Scott Grow, is now a legislator who has proposed limiting the use of voter initiatives in the legislature. Idaho republicans in committee suggested making counties bear cost, and while most moderates–including our own state senator Brent Hill–think it would be unnecessary, the rumor has been spreading locally that everyone’s property taxes are definitely going up because of this. The community discussions quickly devolve into name calling of entitled whiny kids, Ezra Taft Benson quotes, taxation is theft, etc. It is possible someone with political motivations could have gotten to BYUI President’s Council and convinced them it was their responsibility to minimize as much tax burden as possible. One student who had not coordinated with protestors did 40 hours of research into Medicaid and went to the executive offices to discuss the issue. They were allowed to meet with a VP who told them the state expected 30k enrollees and already were on pace for 90k. This is easily debunked and false: the state expected around 90k and on the date they’d met approx. 30k had enrolled so far.

I have been incredibly impressed with these BYU-Idaho students navigating a complicated intersection of religion, politics, and healthcare – and being the ones harmed the most by events beyond their control. They’ve repeatedly expressed their love for BYUI and respect for administration, and that they’re disagreeing with policy and not doctrine. They continually encourage positive communication and have even suggested fasting for their leaders.

In conclusion, a recap:

  • The school enacted a policy that harmed a vulnerable population
  • They didn’t address it, but it leaked on its own accord, created outrage, and went viral
  • Officials refused to confirm or deny reports until they felt their hand was forced
  • When finally addressing it, they gave a reason that is implausible but appeases the uncaring masses
  • They see the resulting firestorm as extremists and “the world” ganging up on them, which further retrenches their position
  • The only way a reversal of policy could happen at this point is pressure from a source they have to listen to (CES, accreditation body, etc.)

One thing is sure, for a community that prides itself on always staying positive and grateful — there are active members who love the church and school who have remained silent about things they’ve disagreed with happening at BYU-Idaho by the current administration for a long time. This issue has broken a lot of their silence, as evidenced by how this one Facebook post has gone viral

Timeline

November 2018 Idaho Votes to Expand Medicaid. 46% of Madison County voters and 61% of state voters support the expansion

Summer 2019 the Idaho Legislative session end with no final plan how to pay for expansion past the first six months and adding an additional 5 waivers to the program, including work requirements and family planning restrictions. Republican lawmakers suggest making counties bear the cost proportionally. https://www.ktvb.com/article/news/politics/idaho-brad-little-medicaid-expansion-counties/277-b2113006-0168-4104-bdf3-234ec5f5b61f

11/4 Rexburg Standard Journal reports the county will have to pay expansion costs https://www.rexburgstandardjournal.com/news/how-much-will-medicaid-expansion-cost-madison-county/article_efb3353a-28f6-53ef-bbc6-fbd566ce485d.html

11/11 Students report on facebook their waiver applications for Medicaid were rejected by the school, tweet goes viral

11/12 Daily Universe reports BYU isn’t involved https://universe.byu.edu/2019/11/12/twitter-forum-sparks-concern-about-medicaid-meeting-byu-health-insurance-requirement/

11/13 BYU-Idaho sends out email informing effected students they’ve been charged for DMBA

BYU-Idaho Scroll https://byuiscroll.org/students-confused-after-university-stops-accepting-medicaid-as-waiver-for-student-health-plan/

11/14 Students form a facebook protest group “Accept Medicaid BYU-Idaho” and local Senator says taxes won’t be raised in a KBYI interview https://www.facebook.com/groups/acceptmedicaidbyui/

11/15

11/16 Students in “Accept Medicaid BYU-Idaho” FB group meet on campus to organize. In the comments of the live feed a KBYI student employee reports they had been banned from covering the story. The next day an alum confirms w a friend who works there and reports in the FB group.

11/17 Idaho Politics Weekly https://idahopoliticsweekly.com/politics/2967-byu-idaho-s-strange-stance-on-students-medicaid

11/18 Tweet goes viral the school has suppressed student media

11/20 BYU-Idaho releases an official statement giving the justification as not to overwhelm community

11/21

11/22

11/23

11/24

Comments

  1. Not a Cougar says:

    Not a good look for the Church, but I’m not surprised they would choose BYU-I as a test case. I wonder if we’ll get a talk in April about relying less on the dole.

  2. Kristine, this was an incredible amount of work for someone who already has so many demands on her time. Thanks for writing this and for your continued activism on this subject!

  3. I say this as someone who thinks the church gets it right far more than it gets it wrong, and as someone who likes and who has family who goes to BYUI: this was one big unforced error after another by the BYUI administration.

  4. Thank you for this detailed article. What enrages me about this particularly are the stories of the married college students with children who are now being forced to choose which of the two (let’s face it, usually the woman) will drop out OR come up with a lot of extra money on a tight budget. We are in a church culture that has explicitly and implicitly taught that you shouldn’t wait to get married and you shouldn’t wait to have children. Yet these people are being punished for doing that. And it is going to mean women are less likely to get their education. Given the broader political context right now of debates over universal healthcare, this seems to be a loud and clear message from Salt Lake.

  5. I’ll take the word of the students who love BYU-I that such a love is warranted. I’m sure there are many in its community that serve spiritual and academic values well.

    The administration, however, is demonstrating that it is composed of people who cannot be trustworthy stewards of either. There may be a coherent intellectual or spiritual position around which to justify its policy, but it is entirely clear at this point they don’t know what it would look like or even have the idea that a University should care about such things.

    Which is what one might expect from people who get used to the idea that influence can and ought to be maintained by virtue of office. Why exercise the ability to lead by pure knowledge and persuasion when you can get by on the idol of authority?

  6. D Christian Harrison says:

    Amazing work, Kristine. Thank you.

  7. Thank you, Kristine, for taking the time to write this. The Tribune and the Times have contributed thanks to their resources, but your reporting has been the clearest and the most informative.

  8. I’m so tired of trying to explain/defend incomprehensible administrative decisions the higher ups make. It’s hard enough defending tough doctrines and history but modern day non-doctrinal decisions are tiresome. It’s distracting from the core work we should be doing as Christians.

  9. Last Lemming says:

    The only way a reversal of policy could happen at this point is pressure from a source they have to listen to (CES, accreditation body, etc.)

    Not being constrained by any love of BYU-I, I would point out another potential source of pressure–students voting with their feet.

  10. As a parent who has filled out plenty of needs-based forms, the requirements for emergency aid are an exercising in shaming. It’s not bad enough being poor. You must feel pain and shame for being poor. The poor do not deserve free time, nor possessions, nor self-respect. Being poor is costly. I am reminded of this injunction:
    “The Lord will enter into judgment With the elders of His people And His princes: For you have eaten up the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor?” (Isaiah 3:14-15)

  11. Not a president of anything says:

    “Due to the healthcare needs of the tens of thousands of students enrolled annually on the campus of BYU-Idaho, it would be impractical for the local medical community and infrastructure to support them with only Medicaid coverage.”

    Did Carri ‘there has not been a demand for caffeinated beverages’ Jenkins get transferred to BYU-I?

  12. At my (gentile, public) university the administration made a concerted effort to enroll eligible students on Medicaid to reduce overall costs.

  13. Apparently lying is acceptable for folks who administer the programs for the university. I suppose that must mean students should likewise feel no qualms about lying in their ecclesiastical endorsements. I don’t know what else we are to conclude when they so obviously and transparently lie to give cover to a terrible decision that is not very good at hiding their hatred for those who are poor and particularly for women and families.

    Knowing that the Church sought a religious exemption from ACA requirements that they provide birth control is particularly galling knowing that 1) our doctrine does not prohibit birth control so any so-called religious basis for this exemption is a lie (and the school states it’s to limit their costs), 2) it is likely to prevent women from graduating, and 3) birth control pills are prescribed for MANY women’s health issues that are not pregnancy related.

  14. I have seen posts from my Facebbook feed that the military insurance, Tricare, has also been determined to be unacceptable, and that children of military members are also being forced to use the BYU-I healthcare plan. Is this true?

  15. Stuff like this really has me questioning the church. I just don’t get it.

  16. My spouse asked me about this last night, and I hadn’t heard about it. After a quick catchup my opinion on the subject is the same as it was last night. This decision was made by a Republican who is butt-hurt that the Affordable Care Act is working, and this is their way to lash out.

  17. Suomalainen says:

    I shake my head in horror.

    Greetings from the heathen land of Finland, which has universal health care and where most women in my ward have a Master’s degree and it’s not even a big deal.

    Amazing what happens when equal access to education means equal access to education.

    (There are problems here too of course, but women – or men – having to drop out of college due to exorbitant insurance or healthcare costs after starting a family is not one).

    This is absolutely shameful, BYUI and CES! Gah! I boo in your specific direction.

  18. Myselfenihah says:

    So, the Idaho Medicaid expansion is unfunded after a few months, right? What happens to the students if a whole bunch of them sign up for medicaid and then six months later that insurance becomes insolvent? I’m just trying to think of reasons for the school to jettison medicaid. I can see them being concerned that a large percentage of students would qualify for the expanded coverage and immediately jump to it, only to be left without meaningful access to healthcare in a few months because of the legislature’s opposition to the program. Maybe if the legislature had funded it fully, as has been done in Utah, they wouldn’t have had that to worry about. I’m not saying it was the right decision, just trying to see how it could have been done with the long-term interests of the students in mind.

    This is also one reason I don’t buy the idea that this is a pilot for all church schools. I can easily see an uniformed employee assuming that, because we do tend to assume that things are done the same all over the church, and we do often run pilot programs. But it seems like a simple rumor in this case. BYU-Provo doesn’t have to worry about Medicaid losing its funding. BYU-Hawaii students have the student healthcare option bundled into their tuition. It’s not optional for them. This feels like a response to a delicate political situation in Idaho intended to protect the students long-term even if it seems mean-spirited short term.

  19. Myselfenihah says:

    Sorry, that should have said “uninformed” not “uniformed”

  20. Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these. . .

    Maybe the Church’s critics are right to say that “we’re not Christians”.
    Is there an option to pay tithing in denominations of “30 pieces of silver”?

    It’s pretty obvious that BYU-I is the authoritarian test-bed for harmful policy. I used to give BYU-I the benefit of the doubt, thinking that it was all due to the right-wing leanings of local Idaho politics. However, I’m starting to doubt that more and more now. This smacks of top-down policy direction from SLC.

    If the Q15 don’t step in and hold BYU-I administrators accountable for their mistreatment & exploitation of a vulnerable population, my faith in the whole organization of the Church will be irreparably shaken. This is an unconscionable injustice, and abuse of power!

  21. Owen Witesman says:

    Self-inflicted wounds. Sad.

  22. Kristine A says:

    Last Lemming: I’m not sure the number of students effected by this could have numerical impact by leaving. That and it is notoriously difficult to transfer credits from BYUI elsewhere, and where would they go? the nearest in state school is 90 min away and many of them can’t transfer into BYU.

    CS Eric: from what I’ve seen reported in the student facebook group either Tricare isn’t accepted as valid insurance or it doesn’t allow dependents to stay on it until age 26. I’m not sure which is the case but I did see some discussion about it.

    Myselfenihah: The expansion is now law and it’s up to the legislature to fund it. 2019 IDleg only agreed on funding for the first six months, yes, and kicked the can into the next 2020 session to solve the funding issue. By law they’ll have to find the money somewhere, even if it’s from new taxes. They can always follow Montana’s lead and charge a hospital bed occupancy tax. There are dozens of ways and means to fund it via savings and/or new taxes. I just don’t think it’s a valid concern of the program going insolvent. There are plenty of ideas like this that could have been shared with admin and they took it for gospel truth and acted accordingly. I just don’t believe any of it is a valid concern at all. And it’s certainly possible the person who internally told employees it came from SLC is wrong, but I can’t think of a logical reason for them to be reporting that internally either.

  23. lastlemming says:

    I’m not sure the number of students effected by this could have numerical impact by leaving.

    Then I amend my comment to include future students.

  24. I’m assuming they need enrollment in the student plan to make it viable? Medicaid essentially “stole” their customer base by leveraging state/federal funds to make Medicaid more attractive.

    So faced with closing their plan/hospital, doubling their rates and facing a death spiral which would close it anyway, they leveraged a greater asset than the desire for cheap insurance — the desire to go to BYU.

    Welcome to the world of perverse incentives and reactions from government encroachment.

    I don’t have much sympathy there. I assume the greater good of the student health center or University run health plans is a higher priority than making sure some students pay less using Medicaid.

    But ya, definitely sounds like a clunky rollout.

  25. When I was pregnant and covered by DMBA my obstetrician told me that DMBA didn’t even pay as much as Medicaid. So, it’s funny when BYUI says that Medicaid would be insufficient to pay for the impact of medical care on the community, but DMBA would.

  26. Kristine A says:

    Lcn: i think the pressure on the student plan most definitely could be part of it, but worst case scenario, they cant run the student plan in idaho and their health center would need to accept other plans. I mean, with LDS church funds available to them, they couldn’t have simultaneously rolled out a healthcare grant for these kids? Instead of grinding the faces of the poor into the pavement for the greater good?

  27. Kristine A says:

    also if DMBA solvency us the issue just say so; these students aren’t idiots and would be able to understand that reasoning. And maybe there could be alternative funding solutions (like charging a small fee to students on their parent’s plans or something).

  28. Myselfenihah says:

    Kristine,

    Thanks for covering this so thoroughly, by the way. I should have said that earlier.

    No, I can’t think of a logical reason either, but I can think of lots of illogical reasons why an employee feeling pressure would try to pass the buck by making an easy, if unjustified, assumption that the decision came from higher up. Given the generally uncertain political climate right now, I can also see how administrators might be wary of whether the funding will come through, law or not. Not logical, but politics and education (I am an educator, by the way) seem to be based very little in logic, and very much in the latest person in charge’s pet ideas about what will produce desired outcomes. They might just be waiting to see what happens. Undoing this policy change later, when full funding is in place, might be easier than helping thousands of students whose insurance suddenly lost its efficacy.

    A couple other points:

    1) We know the expansion was extremely unpopular in the legislature, so Republicans who feel it somehow violates their “values,” in the era of Trump, might also entertain hopes that it can be undone without being fully funded. It wouldn’t be the most astonishing political move lately.

    2) It’s possible the medical community is being less than forthright about their side of this. Some people are being very quick to assume bad faith on the part of the university and/or the church (I don’t put you in that camp, but it seems like a pretty large camp nonetheless), but there are a number of other players here who might not have all their cards on the table.

    Again, I’m not saying the university did everything (or anything) right, but since, as you point out, the students seem to generally love the school, it seems unlikely that the administration is in the habit of acting intentionally against their interests. This also doesn’t seem like a cash grab to me, since I doubt the university makes much money on the student healthcare option. It’s really upsetting and I feel terrible for the students, who are the biggest losers here by a long shot, but I think it’s overly hasty to paint the school in a villainous light. It’s probably just a failure of good intentions, or else a decision that was made on bad advice.

  29. Cathy,

    I feel this. I’ve been there too. It’s horrible and humiliating, and I can only hope we get through it one day.

    Kristine,

    Isn’t there some kind of grant to help the kids afford the student plan? I thought I heard that there was.

  30. Suomalainen says:

    … could have been done with the long-term interests of the students in mind.

    So their long-term solution – in the interest of their students – is to simply not educate the poorer ones?

    Seems like a hell of a plan.

  31. I think a few things people overlook is that if the student qualifies for Medicaid, they can’t just choose to buy an ACA plan on the website, it will automatically have them choosing Medicaid and you can’t just “opt-out”. Likely because it would be foolish to do so.

    This is a $1608 per year tax for poor students, who likely won’t see that much in benefit. $3216 for a married couple where both are students. Student insurance is bottom of the barrel insurance with huge deductibles and terrible prescription coverage. Especially when it comes to maternity care. More doctors around BYU would accept Medicaid than student insurance when I went there because it was worse to work with than Medicaid, which is saying something.

    Hate Medicaid or government programs all you wish, but that is an awfully large amount of money for a bureaucracy that already asks for 10% of your income to mandate that you pay. It’s interesting to me that ACA hating people are totally fine with the school demanding you hand over so much money, but can’t stand that the government does and finds that immoral.

  32. Vanessa Smith says:

    It’s interesting that church schools are all the aspects Republicans hate about government on steroids, yet most who attend them are republicans. No free speech, authoritarian rules, surveillance, no privacy, over-reach, mandated purchasing of insurance. Check to them all.

  33. Kristine A says:

    Myselfenihah: My understanding is that even with the Freedom Foundation folks there are plenty of moderates to outmaneuver them, Gov. Little being one of them. I’m not here to debate the minutae of IDleg with you here or on facebook but I’ll just say I’ll agree to disagree with you that IDleg would allow 90k people to sign up for a health plan and then kick them off with no recourse. I won’t be debating this point.

    My post in no way means to imply that BYUI administrators are malicious actors, quite the opposite, I think they are all good intentioned and have reasoning for their decision – and it seems on the surface those justifications are based either in misinformation or by information from people who have political motivations who were able to convince them of the justification.

    AKK: I went over the process one student has already reported as applying for the grant for help with the student plan

  34. Kristine,

    I read that, but I wasn’t sure if that was the same thing from how it was worded. Especially since your later comment implied there wasn’t one. Thanks for the clarification

  35. What surprises me the most is how out of touch school leadership seems to be here. It’s a decision that seriously affects a lot of students, and yet the school seems entirely unprepared for the kind of backlash it’s receiving. It was a bad decision (perhaps made to retaliate against a new law) and the roll-out was poorly executed.

    Given what transpired church-wide four years ago, I probably shouldn’t be as surprised as I am.

  36. Myselfenihah says:

    Not trying to debate it, Kristine. Just trying to see it from the school’s perspective, since that seems lacking in the comments particularly. Don’t think I even knew you were on FB, so don’t worry about that.

    It sounds like we have the same opinion of the admins. I really admire the work you’re doing on this and in general. I hope it all works out in a way that will protect the vulnerable students.

  37. @Kristine A: Thank you for a spectacular write-up.
    @Myselfenihah: The more I work with Academic or Medical Organizations, the more I realize how much Hanlon’s Razor applies:
    “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
    Strictly critiquing the announcement/lack of communication: At the very least, BYUI should have provided the various/SHC employees who are on the front lines dealing with the affected students with an official statement of some sort. The lack of official communication very evidently allowed for speculation and misinformation to spread from several semi-official sources, considering the delayed statement from Administration. Now they have to chase the story and deal with another media and reputation hit.
    If the delayed official statement “to not overwhelm the medical community” is indeed the real reason for the decision, then an interesting task would be to
    1. Compare the reimbursement rates of Medicaid and DMBA.
    2. Compare the number of local providers accepting Medicaid and DMBA.
    If the DMBA reimbursement rates are indeed as low as mentioned above, a provider would have to be very staunch in their position to accept DMBA and not Medicaid.

    My current wonder is if the statement was delayed because that isn’t the actual reason for the change.

    @Kristine A: Do you know who the University Communications/Spokesperson is there?

    A larger question is wondering whether BYU/BYUI communications directors are under the same leadership constraints as those within the church. We have evidence of bad roll-outs of policy within the church. I wonder if communications/PR is ignored or bypassed.

  38. Do the healthcare needs of tens of thousands of students change based on whether their health care is paid by Medicaid or by DMCA? I don’t think so. More virtue signaling by those who’d rather female students didn’t wear pants.

  39. Myselfenihah says:

    @JD: The communication was bungled for sure, both with students and with the public.

  40. Sounds like BYU-I reversed its decision. Good on the many students, Kristine A, and others who fought for this.

  41. Kristine A: Fantastic work! The school’s decision to reverse this decision will help many students.

    phbrown: I’m not sure exactly what your comment means, but since the DMCA is more expensive and covers less (including not covering birth control for women which puts it outside of ACA requirements–even though the church does not have valid doctrinal grounds to refuse to cover birth control), then yes, there’s a pretty big gap in coverage for students’ needs under the school’s plan. Coverage for maternity under DMCA is also much much worse than under Medicaid. It literally made no sense for a church that encourages 1) prayerful family planning, and 2) having children as early as possible.

  42. Great work, Kristine A. I’m happy for the reversal.

    And now we’ll never know the why? When an institution sets a hard policy for less than respectable reasons, and then the policy comes to light with questions asked, sometimes reversing course is easier, cheaper, less embarrassing, than explaining or justifying. I guess we’ll never know.

  43. I wonder what was going through their minds. Certainly PR people would have saw this train wreck. Of course it got picked up nationally, it checks all the boxes for this to be of interest. I just saw something pop up on Yahoo about it as well.

    I appreciate your insight. I was following this story. It’s interesting to read from someone who watched it happen in real-time.

  44. It’s so very heartening to see that students at that conservative bastion BYUI are prepared to stand up for themselves and win. Makes me feel more hopeful for the future.

  45. It’s great that this decision got rolled back. But what about the gag order on reporters? Has that been lifted too? Can we get a BYU-I student reporter to dig into this, and find out who made this decision?

  46. Regular, not to mention predictable, PR disasters for a MISSIONARY church indicate incompetent leadership, it’s as simple as that. This is nuts.

  47. “Can we get a BYU-I student reporter to dig into this, and find out who made this decision?”
    lol, no

  48. Thanks so much for this post, Kristine, and for all your work to bring this problem to light! I’m so glad that this had a happy resolution. I’m years removed from school now (as I know you are too), but I remember so well the stress of unexpected (and large!) expenses when you’re living on such a tight budget. I expect the affected students feel a tremendous weight being lifted from them.

  49. Bibliovial says:

    The Salt Lake Tribune has an article saying that BUY-I has retracted the policy and now accepts Medicaid, which is relieving.

  50. Geoff - Aus says:

    Universal healthcare

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