BYU watches new health care bill

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Stephanie Rhodes
MTC teacher Daniel Yanez walks into the BYU Student Health Center to visit a family member. The officials at the health center plan to evaluate health care legislation as soon as it becomes law. (Stephanie Rhodes)

Students using BYU’s student health center and general council are keeping an eye on the American Health Care Act, according to BYU Health Services Director of Finance Aaron Larson.

The bill, which passed through the House of Representatives May 4, proposes eliminating the requirement for everyone to have health insurance. Larson said the proposed change will most likely not affect BYU’s requirement that all students have health care.

The bill is meant to replace former President Obama’s health care law, but must successfully pass through the Senate and be approved by President Trump before it becomes law.

Larson is over the BYU student health plan and part of the group that watches and reviews health care law. When the group receives new legislation, they read the actual bill and use information released by the American Council of Education and the American College Health Association.

“To read the whole thing, we wait until it’s official, it’s final, and then we sort of go over it with a fine-toothed comb and look for implementation dates — anything that would relate to us or the student health plan or students in general — and then assess from that point,” Larson said.  

A Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate said one of the major provisions of the American Health Care Act is “eliminating penalties associated with the requirements that most people obtain health insurance coverage and that large employers offer their employees coverage that meets specified standards.”

The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated in the report that if the health care legislation passes, 14 million more people would be uninsured in 2018 than would under current law, and by 2026, 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured.

BYU has required three-quarter time or full-time students to have health coverage since 1987. While Larson said he thinks the BYU policy will not change since it was put in place decades before the Obamacare requirements.

Larson said he would never recommend anyone giving up health insurance, regardless of what changes lay ahead.

“Going without health coverage is really risky, and just because it says it’s not a legal requirement anymore, that doesn’t make it a good choice,” Larson said.

Gordon Lindsay, a BYU health science professor, said ideally everyone would have health coverage, but covering everyone would be a massive financial burden for the government because of the high cost of health care.

“There’s a myth that somewhere out there, there’s an ideal heath care system that’s really really cheap, that covers everybody,” Lindsay said. “You got to choose your poison.”

Lindsay said he has concerns with the U.S. health care system in general. He said the U.S. spends about 18 percent of its GDP on health care, but still continues to fall in its international life expectancy rating.

He said the biggest reason for the decrease is social conditions shaped by a variety of factors such as childhood poverty, economic opportunity, economic security and education. He said the U.S. is often blind to the role those factors play in public health.

“It’s like we’re spending so much money on the quarterback we can’t spend enough money on the other players, and we keep asking ourselves, ‘Why do we keep losing the game?’” Lindsay said.

BYU health science professor Len Novilla said though health care law and dialogue can be complicated, BYU students need to make sure they stay educated on it.

“It discourages a lot of people to really be able to understand our healthcare system here in the United States because of the complexities of the system, the delivery of care and how the policies actually affect benefits, ” Novilla said. “But I would hope that our BYU students will be able to understand the law itself, what the benefits are, what the gaps are and be able to be conversant about it.”

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