Student health fee statement

Dear Cornell Students

Effective next academic year, 2015-16, we will be introducing a student health fee for those not enrolled in the Cornell Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). This will impact approximately 70 percent of undergraduate, 30 percent of professional and 10 percent of graduate students.

As a physician, parent and president, I am proud of our university's long history of providing quality medical, mental health, education and prevention services on campus. These essential services play a critical role in student well-being and, therefore, success. Yet funding these services — and creating access to them for all students — has been a growing fiscal challenge, and a personal concern of mine.

The current funding approach for student health services relies on central university resources, funds from SHIP for services delivered to its members, and fees charged at the time of service to individuals (primarily students with private health insurance). However, university resources have strained to keep pace with increasing health care costs. Students on SHIP have comprehensive health insurance with low costs on campus and in Ithaca, and coverage anywhere in the world they may travel; but too many other students have inequitable access to care. For example, a growing number of students with private insurance report avoiding care due to financial concerns.

To address these serious issues, the university will implement a new funding model for health care services beginning in fall 2015. We will continue to rely on central university resources and SHIP to support student health, but will eliminate many of the fees we charge at the time of service to students with private insurance. Instead, we will introduce an annual university health fee of $350 for students not enrolled in SHIP. With the new funding model, most Gannett visits (medical, mental health, and physical therapy) will be covered by the health fee, with students paying a simple $10 copay. Although introducing a new fee is never desirable, moving to a model that includes a health fee — a standard in college health nationwide — will make student costs more predictable and encourage students to seek the care they need. The new fee, along with additional contributions from the SHIP premium, also will allow the university to maintain and improve accessibility of health services that are critical to the well-being of our community (e.g., expanded services on Saturdays and mental health consultations during medical visits).

I have asked Vice President Susan Murphy to hold a series of on-campus meetings in the coming weeks to answer questions about this new funding model, which will make health care more accessible to every student, regardless of background or field of study.

Best regards,

David J. Skorton