IC partners with Cayuga Health System for student health care

Ithaca College became part of the Cayuga Health System (CHS) network on August 15, in hopes of creating a more sustainable student health center. This improvement has a price: students must now provide an insurance card and may have to pay a copayment to use the services of the health center.

“It’s what people are used to doing everywhere else, but it’s a big change for our students on our campus who haven’t used to doing this in the past,” said Bonnie Prunty. , Vice President of Student Affairs and Campus Life.

The college announced the merger with the campus community on July 14 through a E-mail. Prunty said the college has been discussing partnerships with off-campus entities since the strategic plan was created.

The Ithaca forever The five-year strategic plan was released in June 2019, in which the college outlined its goals for providing an accessible, affordable, and responsive educational experience. In the 36-page document, the desire to build off-campus relationships was highlighted.

Prior to the merger, students were not charged to visit Hammond Health Center or for labs that were performed at the center and did not have to present their insurance card while at the center. Students were only billed by their insurance if they were referred off-campus for care or filled prescriptions off-campus.

The college requires that every student be insured, whether through the college or other insurance. The cost of one year of insurance per University Health Plansthe college project, is $2,713. Students have until September 15 to give up student health insurance otherwise it is automatically charged by the college.

“The challenge is that there may be students who give up their parents’ insurance, who over time find out, ‘You know what, my parents have a highdeductible scheme, and so it costs more than I expected,” Prunty said.

Prunty said college-provided student health insurance may become more cost-effective for some students.

“It’s going to depend on very individual insurance,” Prunty said. “So the real challenge for a student is understanding how their insurance is going to work in the health center. … They need to know if their insurance considers the health center to be in network or off-grid. They need to know what the deductible is under their plan, what the copayments are under their plan. »

Junior Zola Campbell said she had used the Hammond Health Center on several occasions.

“It’s nice that they’re trying to improve it and have a lot more resources, but I use it a lot for little things, like if I have a bad cold,” Campbell said. “[Right now] it’s easy to call and i don’t think it’s something i want to be a big thing, like, ‘oh, I’m going to the doctor and I have to pay a copayment.'”

The CHS collaborated with the college prior to this merger, working with the college’s health sciences, including the physiotherapy program, to enhance student learning. CHS also helped the college reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the email announcing the merger.

CHS operates Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca and Schuyler Hospital in Montour Falls. CHS also operates a multi-specialty group, Cayuga Medical Associates (CMA). CMA has about 24 specialties and their competence is in outpatient medical practices.

Timothy Downs, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance Administration, helped manage the merger between the college and CHS. Downs says his work with the merger is not finished and the two organizations continue to communicate with each other to create a smooth transition.

“We always check in, it’s always very important to us [to check in] because there are bumps,” Downs said. “It’s about bringing a community health partner into a university health space, and it’s a fantastic partnership, but it takes care and nurturing to make sure it all works.”

Jeffrey Penoyer ’08, CMA’s chief operating officer, said CMA focuses on quality of care in the health center.

“The idea was to kind of bring that skill set to the school to help run the student health center,” Penoyer said. “We are focused on…establishing and strengthening their behavioral health programs in the health center and helping to restore normal health center hours.”

prunty said only three behavioral health specialists who are employed by Cayuga Health now work at the health center. She said these specialists will work with students who are struggling with things like stress and anxiety and will be teach them strategies to manage their mental health.

“Maybe a student has insomnia, for example,” Prunty said. “They can’t sleep, and working with a doctor, they can’t find a physical reason why the student can’t sleep. They can make a warm transfer to these behavioral health specialists who now work at the health center.

According to the email announcing the merger, the college’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center will continue and is not part of CHS.

Penoyer said he created a category called “sensitive visits,” such as STI tests and behavioral health visits, where students will not be charged.

“Parents would not be notified by normal means through insurance for these types of visits, as we recognize that these are personal and sensitive visits for the student population,” Penoyer said. “We wanted to make sure students still felt comfortable coming to the health center for these things. And that’s fundamentally different from how we treat the regular population we serve.

Prunty said one of the main reasons the college decided to partner with CHS is that college leadership wants to be able to maintain a high-quality healthcare system for college students. She said it had been a challenge for the college to do so before due to two national issues: the rising cost of health care and the shortage of personnel in the health care industry.

According to Medicare and Medicaid Service Centersnational health expenditure is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 5.4% between 2019 and 2028. It is expected that in 2028, national health spending will reach $6.2 trillion.

Through this collaboration, Hammond Health Center will have extended hours from previous semesters and a broader range of services, including mental health. Last year, Hammond’s hours were reduced to working days. From now on, the health center will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Long wait times at Hammond Health Center had also become a common problem over the years.

Junior Alexa Tamis said this in the past, she used local urgent care, where she paid a co-pay, rather than going to Hammond Health Center because she thought they could give her a more accurate diagnosis. Tamis said she believes the price of a potential co-pay is worth a comprehensive on-campus healthcare system available to college students.

According to, a copayment for a routine doctor’s visit typically costs between $15 and $25; $30 to $50 for a specialist; and $75 to $100 for treatment in an emergency room.

“COVID is still an active thing right now and middle school kids are getting sick all the time,” Tamis said. “Have [an extensive health center] on campus is really important. And kids will have less to worry about finding a way to get to the ER or the doctor.

Penoyer said he was delighted to work with the college leadership.

“It’s nice to be back on campus and just being able to give back,” Penoyer said. “I’m really excited about the partnership. Our goal is to do well with the student population, and we are delighted to do so.

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