BYU health insurance enrollment fluctuates as policies change

DMBA saw drastic decreases in the average student enrollment between years 2011 and 2015. (Andy Almeida)
DMBA saw drastic decreases in the average student enrollment between years 2011 and 2015. (Andy Almeida)

On Nov. 8, the nation watched as Donald Trump won the Presidential election. For many, his win means the potential fulfillment of his promises, which include the cancellation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

A year ago, the BYU student health care plan was recognized as not compliant with Obamacare. As a consequence, students were notified a fine would have to be paid on their taxes.

Since the change in health insurance policy and in enrollment rate at BYU, DMBA (Desert Mutual Benefit Administrators) has seen fluctuating numbers.

According to Andy Almeida, DMBA’s Vice President of Product Development, 8,528 BYU students are enrolled under DMBA. However, in the 2015-2016 academic year there was a drop to 6,759. Since then, the rate has risen to 8,311.

“While DMBA cannot confirm the driver(s) for this decrease in enrollment from enrollment records received from BYU, it is likely that students decided to stay in their parents health plan through age 26, as permitted by the Affordable Care Act and/or purchase lower-cost/reduced-benefit plans in the public health plan exchange,” Almeida said.

Students like Kevin Garland, who returned from their missions to find the Affordable Care Act in effect, have changed choice of health care.

“I was on the student health care plan my first two years of college before my mission, before Obamacare rolled out,” Garland said.

Garland, a senior in neuroscience from British Columbia, Canada, was married 10 months ago and enrolled in Select Health. He is paying about $200 more than he would’ve paid had he enrolled for Desert Mutual.

The semester cost for a single student to be enrolled under Desert Mutual is $296 and $474 dollars if married. Students are to be enrolled in at least 9 credits to qualify. Students expecting children are covered for maternity care and labor.

He says he finds it overall beneficial despite the cost he is paying considering the tax fine he would have to pay under the student health care plan.

“Compared to when I was on my own, we are doing good financially with our combined income,” Garland said.

This fall semester is the first time since 2012 that BYU enrollment hit 33,000 again. Returned missionaries this semester slightly passed the 2012 enrollment rate of 33,336 this year by 27. The increase in freshmen class could explain the spike in student health care enrollment.

Almedia said the 23 percent increase in average student enrollment this year “is largely due to higher single student coverage enrollment in the BYU Student Health Plan. An average of 5,102 students enrolled in single coverage in the 2015/2016 academic year compared to an average of 6,490 in Fall semester of 2016.”

He also said DMBA cannot confirm the drive for this increase in enrollment, but it is possible single students with other health plan coverage see the $74 per month cost of the BYU Student Health Plan as an affordable supplement to their high deductible.

Other explanations could be attributed to students seeing the health plan as “an attractive alternative to the high-premium increases and reduced health plan options in the public health plan exchange,” Almeida said.

However, students who tend to be closer to the age of 26 are considering their options outside Utah as they approach full-time employment post-graduation.

Janette Fernelius, a first-year graduate student from Pennsylvania is approaching her 26th birthday soon. As of now she is under her parents’ insurance plan, but does not consider Medicaid as an option.

“I won’t be applying for Medicaid just because I’ve never liked what I’ve heard about it,” Fernelius said. “As of now I don’t know what health insurance I’ll be enrolling in yet but I’m still doing research on government websites.”

Fernelius is working as a research and teacher assistant aside from studying. She is one example of the many students preparing for post-graduation through her selection of health care and career preparation.


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