Gannett Health Center addresses client services and changing health-care patterns

Cornell's Gannett Health Center is consolidating its services, renovating its space, revising its fee structure and improving its student insurance plan this fall to accommodate changing health care patterns nationwide and to better serve its clients, Janet Corson-Rikert, M.D., University Health Services (UHS) director announced recently.

Among the changes, the health center has instituted a $10 co-payment for students' clinician and psychological services therapist visits. The $10 per visit co-payment fee, which pays a portion of the cost of each visit to a clinician or therapist, applies to all students, including those on the Cornell Student Health Insurance Plan.

"We must change the way we do business in order to deal with rising costs and to meet increasing federal and state mandates as well as the needs of our clients, " Corson-Rikert said. "We want to stay focused on the expectations of those who rely on our services for quality health care at low cost. At the same time we will be able to provide shorter waits to see clinicians and therapists, access to specialists, more comfortable and confidential waiting areas, volunteer opportunities, and health education programming across campus."

Traditionally, Cornell has supported patient care through general operating funds. As costs have risen, UHS has charged patients for services that usually are covered by health insurance and has provided most other services without charge. With the limitations on reimbursement imposed by managed care, "fee-for-service income" has not kept up with the ever-increasing budget demands, Corson-Rikert explained.

She added that UHS is determined that expenses relating to health care should not be a barrier to receiving needed services. Students with financial concerns should talk with a provider or representative of the Billing Office, and expenses may be charged to the bursar bill or charge card.

The $1.8 million renovation project, scheduled for completion in late fall, will rectify many of Gannett's space problems, Corson-Rikert said. The university's investment in this project (from university building reserve funds, not from patient fees), will provide more examination rooms, a handicapped accessible entrance and reception area, more confidential patient consultation areas, more offices and group space for Psychological Services and ensure compliance with state laboratory requirements, she added.

As part of an effort to consolidate services, the center will continue to provide access to 24-hour care for Cornell students, but will close from midnight to 8 a.m. Students who need care during this time may contact a Gannett nurse or receive treatment at Cayuga Medical Center. Cost savings will allow the center to focus resources on regular daytime operations.

"We looked carefully at the experience of the many universities who closed their overnight units during the past decade," Corson-Rikert said. "They found that they are better able to serve the needs of their students by developing alternative options for nighttime services and re-allocating resources to support the health care priorities of their students. We expect our experience will be as positive."

Over the past several years, the number of admissions at Gannett's Overnight Unit has decreased significantly. The inpatient census has declined approximately 30 percent in the past four years. Last year, the average number of patients was 1.6 per day. The service also has functioned as an after-hours clinic, with the vast majority of visits occurring between 5 and 8 p.m. An average of 1.6 patients sign in after 8 p.m. each evening; 0.9 after 11 p.m.

Under the new plan, which went into effect Aug. 24, Gannett Health Center has closed its Overnight Unit, but provides access to 24-hour care for Cornell students. The following services are available:

  • Anyone with a health care emergency (those requiring immediate attention), any time of day or night, should call the Cornell Police at 255-1111. They will arrange emergency transportation and a connection with the appropriate health care provider.
  • Gannett's regular hours are: Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday: (Walk-In Service only) 8:30 a.m. to noon.
  • After regular hours, patients may be seen for urgent care (i.e., cannot wait till morning) at Gannett until midnight, seven days a week (255-5155).

Although the Health Center building is closed daily from midnight to 8 a.m., students with urgent physical or mental health concerns that are not an emergency have two options:

  • They can consult with a UHS nurse by phone (255-5155) who can advise them and, if necessary, arrange a counselor phone consultation or transportation to the Cayuga Medical Center Emergency Room.

They can go directly to the Cayuga Medical Center Emergency Room.

  • Patients who require 24-hour care or who need to be observed overnight may be referred to Cayuga Medical Center.

The new Student Health Insurance Plan for 1996-97 offers better coverage for a lower rate than the 1995-96 plan, Corson-Rikert said. Provided by an insurance carrier that deals exclusively in college health insurance, the managed-care plan includes prescription drug coverage, expanded outpatient mental health benefits and an optional dental plan.

Students can purchase student health insurance for $665 (spouse/same-sex partner: $1,635; child or children: $933). For more information on the plan, contact the Chickering Claims Administrators at 800-859-8475.