We’re thankful this week for Brigham Young University-Idaho’s announcement that it will accept Medicaid as valid insurance for students to remain enrolled.
Both we and the eastern Idaho community, which would have been seriously harmed if lots of prospective degree-holders had dropped out due to financial stress, have many people to thank for this policy change.
First, the community should thank whoever it is that reversed the administration’s initial poor decision and had the good character to apologize for causing “turmoil” through the initial announcement. Everyone makes mistakes. The real test is what you do when you realize you’ve made one.
The community should also thank student journalists, particularly at the Scroll, which released the first story detailing the Medicaid policy change. Though they were muzzled during much of the time events were developing, their initial story pointed out all the contours that would continue to guide debate around the issue. Readers should make sure the student newspaper is supported in the future, and make clear they expect it won’t be censored again.
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Finally, and most importantly, the community should thank the large group of student and alumni activists who respectfully but doggedly stood up for themselves and their neighbors. They weren’t deterred by criticism from the deeply misinformed, who characterized them as entitled. The students’ hard, successful work in organizing to oppose the rejection of Medicaid showed just how facile that claim was.
It’s important to remember that a great many of the activists aren’t Medicaid recipients themselves. Some are young enough to still be covered by their parents’ policies. Others receive coverage through their jobs. The fact that they wouldn’t directly benefit from the acceptance of Medicaid didn’t stop them from working for it. They saw a situation that was wrong and simply set about the work of righting it.
Like Reclaim Idaho’s grassroots campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot, the Accept Medicaid activists have shown eastern Idaho a better kind of politics — a politics built around conscience, solidarity with those who are suffering and organizing peacefully to oppose it.
Let’s hope they remain together.