by John Hunt, MD
In 2011, the state of Virginia tried to block the Federal government’s overreach by passing a law that made it illegal for any individual to be compelled to purchase health insurance. Unfortunately, a loophole was sewn in; one that allowed universities to demand that their students carry health insurance.
My son is a student at the University of Virginia. The administration of the UVA (a public university) this year required all students to submit their health insurance information to Aetna, an insurance company, to review, so as to determine its acceptability. If the information is deemed "not acceptable”, students are automatically enrolled in Aetna’s student health insurance plan at a cost of $2600/year. This cost is added directly to the UVA tuition bill. Yes, you read that correctly – an insurance company is determining the adequacy of a student’s healthcare payment arrangements. In my mind, that’s like giving Burger King the power to deny our ability to eat dinner at home and then forcing us to consume their Whoppers.
It should come as no surprise that Aetna’s approval website specifically proclaims healthcare sharing ministries to be “unacceptable”. I take exception to this. As a parent, I have chosen medical cost sharing via Liberty HealthShare for my family. A university – or their insurance partner – is in a poor and conflicted position to determine what is best and wisest for my family.
Failing to pay the $2600 will prohibit the student from registering for classes the subsequent semester and thereafter. In addition, there is a real breach of privacy happening here. Under threat of expulsion or the $2600 additional fee, students or their parents have to enter personal and confidential information into Aetna’s database!
This is called a "hardwaiver program". They are invasive and unjustifiable but nonetheless have been instituted at scattered colleges and universities around the country. Be aware. Hardwaiver programs can sneak up on you and be very expensive. The only beneficiaries seem to be health insurance companies. Because of manifold red flags, I decided to push back.
If you find yourself in a similar situation with your college-aged family member, there is hope! In our case, with some nagging, UVA overruled Aetna’s automatic denial of Liberty HealthShare. This, in effect, declared that our chosen method of protecting our health finances met the approval of the university. We should never have to worry whether our health choices meet with the approval of an ivory tower. And we should never be forced to give away our personal information. I was between a rock and a hard place because I refused to pay an insurer $2600, yet I still wanted my son to be able to finish out his final year at college.
You may want to write your college president now to ensure they keep their focus on education and not on your personal family health choices. Reach out to the university ombudsmen. If compulsion to purchase health insurance is an invasion of your religious and ethical beliefs, as it is of mine, then argue your case on those grounds. You will likely win, for it is hard for any good official at a university to defend the morality of hardwaiver programs.
If you run into a hardwaiver program such as this, you may need to explain to the university how a healthcare sharing ministry works. A Liberty Member Services representative can assist in this, and they are eager to do so. With Liberty HealthShare on your side, you can push back against the hardwaivers. But, as with everything else, it is in the hands of each of us as individuals to press for morality at every level.
John Hunt, MD is a member of Liberty Healthshare’s Physician Advisory Board. He is the author of the just-released Your Child’s Asthma—a Guide for Parents. You can purchase the book in paperback or download by clicking the title above.