The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has led to a decrease in the number of students using BYU’s student health plan according to Aaron Larson, assistant director of the Student Health Center.
“Back in 2010, 45 percent of students had the BYU Health Plan as their means of insurance,” Larson said. “Now it has changed to about 30 percent. This is still high, but the Affordable Care Act allowing students to stay on their parents’ plan definitely affected things.”
Larson clarified that the Student Health Plan Office internally tracks these findings; they are not available to the public.
According to Larson, the Health Center is OK with the decreasing numbers because BYU’s plan is a nonprofit plan for those who need and want it. Additionally, students don’t need to have BYU insurance in order to go to the Health Center for treatment. At this time of year the Student Health Center averages 195 students each day and is booked out about a day or two in advance.
The health plan is available to all students, and, according to Larson, its structure has been based on 30 years of examining what students need.
While the plan meets the university’s requirements, it does not meet the minimum essential coverage requirements set by Obamacare. Because of this, starting in 2016, students on the plan will be charged on their yearly federal taxes for being uninsured; however, Larson does not believe this charge has a connection with the drop of students using BYU’s health plan.
“We are fairly certain that it is only related to them being on their parents’ insurance,” Larson said. “We were granted a five year grace-period in which we needed to become compliant. Fall of 2015 was when the plan became no longer compliant. Since this time we haven’t seen a mass exodus of students dropping their plans that is related to this.”
Larson believes the benefits this plan provides are good and that they meet the needs of BYU students.
“The benefits of the BYU health care plan include premiums that are typically cheaper than other insurance options,” Larson said. “This doesn’t just include the Affordable Care Act, but anything. Copays are nominal ($10), and there is coverage for providers in the community. International students or out-of-state students are covered as well.”
Austin Hammer, a junior at BYU studying genetics, said he decided to enroll in BYU’s health plan because it was more affordable for him.
“There was a high deductible through my parents’ insurance, so it was more advantageous for me to use the BYU plan where the deductible was lower,” Hammer said.
Hammer said he has had a good experience with BYU’s health plan.
”I have found some of the doctors at the center to be pretty good,” he said. “The price is steep but overall my experience there has been good.”
Jed Harston, director of managed care at Revere Health, the largest independent healthcare group in Utah, says they have had good experiences working with BYU’s health plan.
“Most of the feedback I have gotten here is positive. The health care is easy to work with from a provider’s perspective,” Harston said. “We qualify what is positive by the ease experienced on the administrative side of things. If processes move smoothly then we count them as a good carrier to work with.”
According to Larson, BYU was one of the first universities in 1987 to have a student health plan.
“Because they were one of the first, many colleges will come to us to ask, ‘How do you guys do this?'” Larson said.
One aspect of BYU’s health coverage that may differ from some universities is its unwillingness to cover birth control and contraceptives.
“The student health plan is based on what students need most. If you have a medical condition that would require contraceptives it can be approved, but it has to go through a process because it doesn’t fall within the needs of the students,” Larson said. “We can’t discriminate which benefits we give to whom. We can’t ask someone if they are married in order to decide if we can give them contraceptives or not.”
According to Larson, BYU’s Health Center is contracted with 90 percent of the insurance companies that students have when they come to Provo for school. Other Church universities are allowed to use the health clinic and plan, including LDS Business College and the Missionary Training Center.