Cornell Requirements

Insurance requirements & COVID-19 distance learning 

Cornell's current insurance requirements and waiver process are based on the assumption that students will be attending in-person classes in Fall 2020. If distance learning extends into the fall semester, these requirements will change slightly (see details). 

Cornell's health insurance requirements

Access to health care and adequate health insurance are essential to your health, and to your ability to achieve your goals at Cornell. That's why in 1974 Cornell's Board of Trustees instituted a university policy requiring all students to have quality health insurance.

Cornell's criteria for quality health insurance are designed to ensure that all students have access to professional, timely, confidential, and affordable medical and mental health care, and are protected against costs that could undermine their education or financial or personal well-being.

Requirements for 2020-2021

All full-time registered students* must have health insurance that ...

  1. is provided by a company licensed to do business in the United States, with a U.S. claims payment office and a U.S. phone number
  2. has unlimited annual and lifetime benefits (i.e., no policy maximum)
  3. will be in force for the duration of the academic year, or until their program ends
  4. provides “Federal bronze level” 40% coinsurance (meaning the plan pays 60%) or better coverage for health care where the student is attending school (Ithaca** or elsewhere) 
     Coverage must include: 
      – Inpatient Care
      – Emergency Care
      – Urgent Care
      – Specialty Care
      – Diagnostic Imaging and Testing
      – Outpatient Mental Health Care
  5. is NOT…
      – a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan without an “away from home” rider
      – an out-of-state Medicaid plan
      – a catastrophic ("young invincible") plan

Want to understand these requirements better? Visit Insurance Requirements Details

*These requirements do not apply to part-time students and non-degree students. Summer students and Continuing Education students have different requirements.

**Ithaca-based students are encouraged to have in-network coverage at Cayuga Medical Center (CMC), which is the only provider of hospital-based services accessible by public transportation in Tompkins County (see insurance plans that CMC participates with). 

    Annual SHP enrollment / waiver process

    Automatic SHP enrollment: To ensure that students have health insurance that meets the requirements above, full-time academic-year students are automatically enrolled in Cornell's Student Health Plan (SHP) each year. SHP is a platinum-level plan that meets or exceeds the university's health insurance requirements.

    Waiving SHP: Eligible student who have alternate health insurance that meets Cornell's requirements may apply to waive their SHP enrollment. Students who retain their own insurance must submit a waiver application annually.


    Student Health Fee (Ithaca students only): Ithaca students who are not enrolled in a Cornell student health plan (SHP or SHP+) pay a Student Health Fee, giving them the same pre-paid access to care at Cornell Health as SHP members have (most visits / services have a $10 visit copay).

    Insurance requirements & COVID-19 distance learning

    Cornell's current insurance requirements and waiver process are based on the assumption that students will be attending in-person classes in Fall 2020. 

    In the event that distance learning extends into the fall semester, please note the following. 

    Domestic students enrolled on Cornell’s Ithaca campus: 

    • If you participate in distant learning this fall instead of being located in Ithaca, you will not be required to have insurance that provides 40% coinsurance or better coverage for health care in the Ithaca region (see Requirement #4 above) for the duration of your distance learning period. 
    • If you submit a waiver application this summer and your application is denied based on Requirement #4 above, you will receive a provisional denial (resulting in your enrollment in SHP), which will be converted to a waiver approval (and termination of your SHP enrollment) if you are not located in Ithaca this fall. Once in-person instruction resumes, your waiver denial (and enrollment in SHP) would be re-instated.

    International students (any campus):

    • International students attending in-person classes and/or studying from a location in the United States are required to be enrolled in SHP, and are not eligible to submit a waiver application. 
    • Self-paying (non-PhD) international students: If you participate in distant learning from your home country this fall instead of coming to the United States, you may petition to temporarily cancel your SHP enrollment for the duration of your distance learning period (email for a petition application). Once in-person instruction resumes, your SHP enrollment would be reinstated.

    Information just for you

    Please visit the following pages to find population-specific requirements and options: