Idaho had long resisted participating in the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which provides coverage to Americans who earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,612 for an individual, and $34,248 for a family of four).
The state legislature twice voted down bills that would have added Idaho to the program, which currently covers 36 states and the District of Columbia. In 2018, local activists secured a ballot initiative on the issue. The proposal passed with a double-digit margin, and after a State Supreme Court challenge, the program will start in January.
In announcing its new stance on Medicaid, Brigham Young University-Idaho cited a worry about overwhelming local health care providers. The local hospital, however, said it had no such concerns and had not raised the issue with the university.
“We have some great providers here, and we feel like we’re able to handle any growth that the university and the community would need,” said Doug McBride, executive director of business development at Madison Memorial Hospital, a county-owned facility.
Since the school announced the new policy this month, students have organized Facebook groups and circulated petitions opposing the change.
Ms. Emerson, one of the students with Medicaid, is planning to enroll in a private plan in addition to her public coverage. Her husband, also a student at the Idaho campus, plans to do the same. They said they had discussed their options with a local insurance broker and found that the student plan would be the cheapest, but hadn’t yet made a decision.
“We only have a few weeks until we have to be registered for new classes, so this kind of dropped a bomb on us,” Ms. Emerson said. “We only have one semester to go, so we’re willing to dip into our savings.”