Following an announcement that Student Health Plan Plus — a partnership between Cornell and the New York State Department of Health that provides coverage to students on Medicaid at no cost — would be terminated on June 30, Cornell announced that they will cover the cost of the standard Student Health Plan for students experiencing a gap in coverage for one month.
“To support students who may face a gap in coverage, Cornell will provide funding for SHP, which has co-pays and co-insurance but the same Aetna network as SHP Plus, to extend coverage to existing SHP Plus members for the month of July,” stated a new document with frequently asked questions that was published online Friday, June 16.
The SHP Plus provided students actively enrolled in New York State Medicaid with health, adult dental and vision coverage without premiums, co-pays or coinsurance with in-network care available nearly anywhere in the United States. The program formed nearly a decade ago as a pilot program between the University and the NYSDOH, with the health department providing $2 million annually for the program.
“NYSDOH decided to end its partnership with Cornell, sunsetting the SHP Plus program June 30, 2023,” the University stated in the document. “Per NY state law, any insurance product can be discontinued at any time, and the insurer must pay for claims for 30 days upon announcement of the discontinuance.”
Affected students were informed by the University on June 9, 21 days before the discontinuation.
According to the University, there are 378 returning students and 69 newly matriculated students who have expressed an interest in SHP Plus enrollment. These students are already enrolled in regular NYS Medicaid, and with a Medicaid Managed Care plan, these students would continue to receive similar coverage as they did on SHP Plus. However, care options differ depending on which alternative MMC plan students select and on the providers in Tompkins County who accept that plan. There are two local MMC programs — Fidelis Care and Molina — and they have a much smaller network than the SHP Plus plan.
The University stated that a MMC plan works best for primary care services and that “students will/should not experience any change in treatment and services they seek and receive at Cornell Health.”
However, the University acknowledged that obtaining specialty care and dental care can be difficult with a MMC — especially in Tompkins County, due to a limited number of providers who accept Medicaid.
Students on a MMC can receive services at Cornell Health at no cost with a copay waiver program. Cornell Health provides primary care services, in addition to a limited number of specialty care services.
“Cornell is committed to supporting students who experience any such challenges and making their access to health care as seamless as possible,” the University stated.
Cornell Health does not currently participate in Medicaid. The University states that they are actively working to become an in-network provider with New York State Medicaid and plan to provide an update on this effort before the fall 2023 semester.
In a typical academic year — with the SHP Plus program in place — approximately 250 students that are eligible for SHP Plus choose to opt out of the program in place of a MMC plan, according to the University.
Students who enroll in a MMC plan by July 15 will have coverage by Aug. 1 and will experience no gap in coverage. Students who have not enrolled in a MMC plan by Sept. 1 will be auto-enrolled in the standard SHP plan. For returning students, the SHP plan costs $1,896 per semester. For new students, the program costs $1,580 in the fall semester and $1,896 in the spring.