September 10, 2008

Confusion Over SHIP Concerns Grads

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In response to the passing of the Graduate Community Initiative, members of the Cornell Graduate and Professional Student Assembly visited the Geneva Experiment Station — about an hour southeast of Ithaca — in August to unite the graduate student community. Confusion surfaced, however, when students in attendance expressed concern about Cornell’s Student Health Insurance Plan, which many believed required those on the plan to travel all the way to the Gannett Health Center in Ithaca to receive health care.
Though there are medical providers in Geneva that accept Aetna Health Insurance — the provider for SHIP — the 40 to 70 graduate students who study there are worried that they would have to pay additional charges for visiting a Geneva medical facility, according to Michael Walsh grad, graduate student trustee.
Jo Ann Molnar-Kieffer, the administrator for SHIP, responded that graduate students at Geneva may not fully understand the details of their health insurance plan. In response, the Cornell Office of Student Insurance is working to help students in Geneva understand their benefits and access health care.
“We actually have provisions in the Student Health Insurance Plan specifically for the students in Geneva,” Molnar-Kieffer said. “The Student Health Insurance Plan provides the same benefits for the students in Geneva that it provides to those on the Ithaca Campus.”
According to Walsh, there will be a review of the entire SHIP next year.
“If this has been a point of confusion we’re going to want to make sure it’s covered in thereview,” said Walsh.
Molnar-Kieffer said that SHIP’s copayments are the same whether students go to participating providers in Ithaca or Geneva. All Cornell students can see a Gannett Health Center provider for a $10 student visit charge, which is a Gannett Health Center fee, not an insurance copayment. While students in Geneva may end up paying more out of their pocket for a primary care visit than students in Ithaca who go to Gannett, this is not an issue with the insurance.
Molnar-Kieffer also mentioned that transportation is available between Geneva and Ithaca for students who want to be seen at Gannett. While Gannett specializes in care for college students, the health insurance coverage does not require students in Geneva to come to Gannett.
“The provisions are already there and have been for more than a decade,” Molnar-Kieffer said. “We know that Geneva students need to seek care as close as possible to where they live and work, especially in an emergency.”
According to Molnar-Kieffer, communicating about insurance benefits is complex, which is why brochures are not enough. Molnar-Kieffer and her staff spend a considerable amount of time with students and parents at their office in Collegetown educating them about the plan. She also does insurance orientations and presentations on campus and with the Geneva students each year.
“This year, I was very excited to make contact with Jonathan Oliver, president of the Geneva Student Association. We plan to work together to establish a SHIP presentation on a day that fits best into the students’ busy schedules.”
“We are meeting with Gannett this week and next week, hopefully we can make it clear,” said Brian Forster grad, Student Advocacy Committee Chair for the GPSA.