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TEARS, JEERS GREET Y. INSURANCE PLAN

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When Randy Austin picked up a copy of the student newspaper and saw that Brigham Young University might be raising insurance premiums more than 100 percent for certain married students like him, he hurried to find his wife.

He wanted to explain it to her so she would be spared the shock of seeing it in cruel black and white.He was too late. The news had caused her to break down in tears.

Same thing with York Faulkner's wife.

Both women are pregnant. That means they have a pre-existing condition that would prevent them from signing up for a different, suddenly cheaper, insurance plan.

But BYU is trying to work out some kind of relief for students like Faulkner and Austin. And for good reason.

Couple the proposed rate increase with a proposed increase in the deductible from 20 percent to 30 percent, and Austin and Faulkner, both law students, would have had about $1,200 in bills that they did not anticipate when their babies are born in October And that's assuming there are no complications.

For perspective, BYU pays $4.65 per hour to its student employees up to a maximum of 20 hours per week. In a 16-week semester, that's $1,488 a semester before taxes.

Austin is making more than that working part time for an attorney, but he says it will be a burden and doesn't see how he can do it without going into debt to either his family or the bank.

But just as quickly as the two law students express their frustration at the rate increase, they express appreciation to the quick way college officials have tried to ease the students' burdens.

After the student newspaper attacked the insurance increase in its editorial pages last week, many complaints came in. Soon school officials announced that they are willing to use university funds to help those 1,000 or so students who have pre-existing conditions that would prevent them from switching insurance plans.

Faulkner said he thinks officials were just as disturbed as students when they saw what the increases actually meant to some married students. Student adviser Tom Kallunki, BYU's assistant director of student leadership development, said it was the quickest he has ever seen the administration work to resolve any issue.

Kallunki made those comments at an informational meeting Wednesday where students questioned the policy and spoke to student leaders about what a "fair" increase would be, and how the school might get more money in its general fund to help pick up the university's new insurance expense.

The President's Council plans to make a decision by Aug. 6, so student representatives plan to have their recommendations ready within a week or so, Kallunki said.

Among the recommendations made by students:

- Keep the increase to less than 30 percent.

- Keep fall semester rate increases about the same as last year's, so students can prepare for much higher rates in the winter.

- Raise the cost of a BYU Health Center visit to make up costs the university would lose by helping insured students with pre-existing conditions.

- Set up an insurance fair to allow students to learn how to compare insurance rates, so they can get the best deal.