Cornell students erupt over health care fee

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Cornell president David Skorton had a “testy” exchange with students who stormed his office in protest of health care opt-out fees by the school.

Students at vaunted Cornell University are plenty smart enough to know they should not have to pay a penalty for not buying the school’s health insurance if they already have coverage, but that’s exactly what a new policy at the Ivy League school requires.

The $350 “health fee” for opting out of the school’s insurance plan was announced in a memo school President David Skorton posted on Cornell’swebsite last week, according to higher education blog The College Fix. But it is just setting in with the student body, and many attending the Ithaca, N.Y., school are not pleased. Under the Affordable Care Act, students must have insurance, but making those already covered pay an extra fee to skip the school’s plan is not sitting well.

“Effective next academic year, 2015-16, we will be introducing a student health fee for those not enrolled in the Cornell Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP),” read the memo. “As a physician, parent and president, I am proud of our university’s long history of providing quality medical, mental health, education and prevention services on campus. These essential services play a critical role in student well-being and, therefore, success. Yet funding these services — and creating access to them for all students — has been a growing fiscal challenge, and a personal concern of mine.”

The announcement sent students into a fervor, leading to a series of rallies on campus and hashtag activism, with #FightTheFee trending on the social media website.