Could the proposed changes to the ACA affect graduate student health insurance?

Date: March 2017


Dear Dean(s),

There’s a lot of talk right now about changes to federal health insurance regulations because of the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Just today, a replacement to the ACA was unveiled, and I have so many questions!

Mainly, could these proposed changes affect graduate student health insurance at Cornell, and if so, how?

More specifically, if the ACA is repealed and replaced with this proposed plan, could students see changes in their coverage from the Student Health Insurance Plan? Does Cornell have any rules with respect to mandatory health insurance for its graduate students? Is the situation different for international students?

Any answers are appreciated!

Thanks and all the best,

Concerned about Health Care


Dear Concerned about Health Care,

Many Americans are wondering what changes are in store for the U.S. health care system as Congress begins to debate a draft bill that would revise or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s still far too early to know what any final law might look like when (or if) it approved by the House, Senate, and signed by the president. That means, in the near-term, we don’t expect any major changes to the Cornell Student Health Plan (SHP), or to university policy on the need for students to maintain acceptable coverage. Plan details for the 2017-18 academic year are being finished this spring so will almost certainly be locked in place before any legislative changes are made. It may also be reassuring to see that, in its current form, the proposal does not eliminate provisions of the ACA that allow children to remain on a parent’s insurance policy until age 26.

Many experts expect the biggest changes (and fiercest battles) will be about insurance subsidies for low-income residents, and about the “individual mandate” – a requirement that all Americans are generally responsible for having health care insurance. Those two issues don’t directly affect Cornell’s Student Health Plan, but other provisions of a new law may shift requirements in unknown ways. And, of course, big changes in federal health care policy could certainly have ripple effects in our community.

Cornell requires that all international students enroll in the SHP. This ensures they have access to medical services in the U.S. that might not be otherwise available if they have insurance in their home country, and also because there had been an alarming rise in students being sold low-value third party insurance policies that didn’t work in Ithaca. SHP is a platinum level plan that is designed to meet the needs of a diverse community in a manner that keeps the student at the center of its efforts. Graduate assistantship (TA, RA, GRA, or GA) appointments also automatically include coverage on the SHP. Other students who have their own insurance can waive coverage in the Cornell plan if they meet the requirements

If you have any other questions about Cornell’s insurance plans you can contact If you are a U.S. citizen and want to contact your elected representatives about the proposed legislation you can find their contact information on the House website. And, if you are not a U.S. citizen, I hope you’ll share your perspectives on the U.S. health care system with your classmates – we need more good ideas in this important national dialogue!



Jason A. Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration