May 2, 2003

Gannett Reviews Student Health Insurance Plan

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After reviewing bids from four different insurance companies this spring, Cornell administrators and the Student Insurance Advisory Committee (SIAC) announced on Monday that the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) for Cornell students will be administered by the Chickering Group for the eighth year in a row.

“The renewal of the Chickering contract allows us to provide continuity in coverage for students already on the plan and offer an outstanding value to every student in need of health insurance,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.

The Chickering Group specializes exclusively in the college and university student health insurance business. Their partnership with Aetna U.S. Healthcare (AUSHC) provides students insured by the SHIP access to AUSHC’s national physician, hospital and pharmacy networks, according to Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett: Cornell University Health Services.

The renewed contract with the Chickering Group for 2003-2004 includes increased coverage for in patient mental health services and prescription drugs and new options for dental and vision plans.

The optional dental insurance available with next year’s SHIP covers both basic preventative and restorative work that will be beneficial for both oral exams and dental fillings, according to SIAC member Lauren Junker grad.

A survey administered by the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly (GPSA) Pay and Benefits Committee last year indicated that graduate and professional students would be willing to pay a reasonable premium for such coverage, she said.

Other benefits for next year’s SHIP include increased benefits for smoking cessation and acupuncture as an addition to women’s health benefits. Furthermore, the Chickering Group will be improving the waiver process so that it can be done online, according to Junker.

The rate increase for this year’s plans is two percent, at $1059 for individual coverage in the Ithaca area and anywhere in the world. The rate increases for spouses or same sex partners are 1.5 percent and one percent for children.

According to Allen Bova, chair of the Student Insurance Advisory Committee, “early estimates had predicted an increase of 10 percent to 15 percent.”

In 1974, the University mandated that all students be covered by its Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), unless they subscribe to another plan that meets Cornell’s requirements.

“If a student were to buy an individual plan with the same coverage, the plan would most likely cost two to three times more than the SHIP,” said Jo Ann Molnar, student insurance administrator for Gannett: Cornell University Health Services

Dittman noted that the SHIP represents “an excellent value for comprehensive student health insurance.” She estimated that 95,000 are currently enrolled in the plan.

“The SHIP is an accident and sickness policy designed to provide extensive coverage at a reasonable cost for most on or off campus medical care and to guard against catastrophic expenses,” Dittman said.

According to Molnar, while on the plan, “SHIP covers a student whether he or she is traveling to Syracuse for a basketball game or going to Fort Lauderdale for spring break.”

Because the Chickering Group has a partnership with the Aetna provider network, there is a high concentration of Aetna providers all over the U.S. This can be of benefit to students traveling to other parts of the country, Molnar said.

The SHIP also includes medical evacuation and repatriation coverage that are not typically included on employer’s plans.

“The plan provides for medical transportation to centers of care for students who might be vacationing in Cancun or researching in a third world country that doesn’t have adequate medical services,” according to Molnar.

In the event where a student does lose his or her life, the SHIP includes repatriation coverage that can be a “comfort and benefit” in situations where a family is not able to provide funds for shipping the remains back home, Molnar said.

“A quality health insurance plan in general is a great value, when you consider the high cost of medical care,” she said.

Molnar added that census data indicates that over 75 million people in the U.S. do not have adequate health insurance or health insurance at all.


“Not having health insurance is one of the major barriers to getting health care in the U.S.,” she said.

Each year, SIAC and Cornell administrators review the SHIP for renewal and every third year, the plan goes through a bidding process to ensure “a plan that is responsive to the needs of the student body,” said Junker.

“The committee reviewed bids on the Cornell Contract and interviewed two finalists after discussing the merits of each of the proposals,” she said.

Junker noted that the important issues in this year’s decision included overall plan design, the annual premium and stability of the plan, the extent of the provider network both in and outside of Ithaca, the claims administration and the online waiver and referral services.

“From the committee’s perspective, Chickering came through with the best overall proposal and SIAC is looking forward to working with Chickering” she said.

Archived article by Janet Liao