US University Stops Accepting Students Covered by Government Health Care for Poor

 A U.S. university in the Western state of Idaho says it is no longer accepting students whose only health insurance is Medicaid, a federal health plan primarily for low-income people.

Brigham Young University-Idaho said it was now requiring students to buy a university-backed health plan, a move that could force some low-income students to drop out.

Students at the private university are required to have health insurance to be enrolled, a practice that is common at colleges across the country, both public and private. Previously, Medicaid qualified as adequate coverage at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Medicaid, funded by the U.S. government, is a health insurance plan for low-income and disabled people.

Brigham Young University is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church.

Students' options

Following the university's change in policy, students covered by Medicaid will now have to either buy another health insurance plan or enroll in a university-sponsored plan. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the university health plans are run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and cost $536 per semester for an individual or $2,130 for a family.

A statement from the university explained its reasoning for the decision: "Due to the health care needs 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."

Last year, Idaho passed an expansion of Medicaid in which families and individuals who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level would be eligible to receive Medicaid. That was an increase from the previous coverage, which topped out at 100% of the poverty level. The law goes into effect in January.

Local health care providers told media outlets that they were fully prepared to handle the care of new Medicaid patients and said they were not consulted by university officials. Grand Peaks Medical and Dental CEO Lori Sessions told that her clinic has been working to expand its offering "in anticipation of the influx of patients that Medicaid expansion could possibly bring."

Protest planned

Thousands of Brigham Young students have signed a petition asking the university to reverse its position. Students say they are planning a sit-in Monday outside the offices of the school's executives.

Brigham Young University's main campus in Provo, Utah, has not changed its health insurance policy and still allows students insured only by Medicaid to attend.

by via Voice of America - English