BYU to accept HMO health insurance plans, effective Winter 2013

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The BYU Student Health Center recently changed its student health coverage requirement to fit the country’s changing health care landscape.

Effective Winter 2013, BYU will accept Health Maintenance Organization plans, which have previously not fit BYU’s health insurance requirements.

“The change to BYU’s health coverage requirement includes two options for students: the BYU Student Health Plan or an Affordable Care Act-compliant plan,” said Aaron Larson, Student Health Services’ associate director. “The Affordable Care Act specifies a minimum standard that all health plans must comply with.”

The Affordable Care Act — also commonly referred to as Obamacare — was signed into law in March 2010. ACA sets forth guidelines for guaranteed issues of health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions, a shared responsibility between individuals and employers and an expansion of Medicaid, among other things. ACA also set forth standards for four levels of coverage that all health insurance plans must meet.

“All health plans will be put into four tiers of coverage,” Larson said. “These tiers have been dubbed ‘bronze, silver, gold and platinum.’ The more ‘valuable’ the nickname, the more expansive the benefits. Most, if not all, traditional health plans will be held to these requirements.”

HMO plans — such as Kaiser, a widely used plan among students from California — were previously not accepted because they lacked a provider network, such as doctors and hospitals in Utah. Since HMO plans are ACA-compliant, BYU health officials made the decision to make them an acceptable form of student health insurance.

“The new standard recognizes that healthcare has changed,” Larson said. “It will likely continue to change. As it does, BYU will evaluate the requirement against these changes.”

Larson said BYU evaluates health care requirements on an annual basis, considering factors related to both students and parents, as well as the health care landscape as a whole.

“The best description that can be used for the process is ‘cautious and careful,'” Larson said. “This policy affects all students. BYU has to be sure that it can be applicable to all students without compromising the necessity of health coverage,” he said. “Feedback from students and parents was also considered.”

The change comes as a relief to many students and parents who were previously “double covered” by family health insurance plans and the BYU student health plan. Mark Stewart of Roseville, Calif., whose four daughters have all attended BYU, said “the news is good for people like us.”

Prior to the policy change, Stewart’s daughter, Averi, a junior studying communication disorders, was caught in a mess with the Health Center after transferring from BYU-Idaho, where the family’s Kaiser insurance plan was accepted. Upon transferring, the Stewarts were told they would need to purchase the $290 student health plan.

“In my opinion, BYU is saying they’ve had problems with (plans like Kaiser), but they only know the problems,” Stewart said prior to the change. “They don’t know how many cases there are where they haven’t had to worry about anything.”

Now that BYU will accept Kaiser and all other HMO plans starting in January, the Stewarts and many other parents can breathe a sigh of relief.

Larson said there are currently no other changes to BYU health coverage requirements. “As health care continues to change, BYU will evaluate the needs of students against these changes.”

For more information on the policy change and other health insurance information, visit health.byu.edu.

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