Updated at 4:15 P.M. on Nov. 21: A previous version of this article implied that students can go to a General Practitioner or specialist without paying the full price of a visit or needing a referral. This is not true—students do need a referral and could be charged full price for a visit without one.
In case you haven’t already been either infected or made aware, November is still flu season—not to mention high time for the onset of all those other delightful epidemics that cold weather seems to usher in. Whether or not you got your flu shot (and if you haven’t yet, you might want to consider it—Columbia Medical Services provides them for free on a walk-in basis to all students), there’s a chance that you’ll end up spending at least a few days under the weather before—or even worse, during—finals.
We’ve rounded up some alternative local healthcare providers to Health Services in John Jay and Barnard Primary Care, who will accept your prepaid Columbia Student Health Insurance plan, meaning that you most likely won’t have to pay for many pesky out-of-pocket fees. It usually amounts to about $40 for a General Practitioner appointment copay.
You will have to wait out the line at John Jay or Barnard Primary Care in order to see any of the General Practitioners or specialists on this list, as you’ll need a referral from the school if you don’t want to be charged the whole cost of the visit (which would kind of defeat the purpose of having your insurance).
It won’t be for nothing, though; the waits at both facilities are generally pretty short, and making an appointment isn’t terribly difficult at either Columbia or Barnard. What you’ll be getting is access to a doctor who can best cater to your particular illness, and who will be able to take into account any past health issues you’ve had; you’ll also get a list of out-of-network specialists to whom you can also bring your referral (i.e. specialists not on this list — whose insurance acceptances might vary). Even if you go to one of the on-campus medical centers after hours, you’ll be directed to an appropriate resource if you call after-hours line at (212) 854-7426.
Below is a roundup of the general practitioners, critical care professionals, medical specialists, and urgent care facilities to which you can take your coughs, sneezes, and fevers for a pick-me-up that won’t cost a ridiculous amount more than you’ve already put forward for your insurance (if you paid for it, you might as well use it, right?), and that are within walking distance (read: sick-person walking distance) of campus.
General practitioners are the kinds of doctors you’ve probably encountered most. They’re the jack-of-all-trades of the medical world, able to handle most mild and unspecific issues you might be having, including the dreaded back-to-school flu or a cough that never seems to go away.
Sometimes your health issues might be a bit more dire but still not CAVA-worthy. If that’s the case, visiting an urgent care facility is your best bet for quick and reliable treatment if you can’t make it during walk-in hours at Columbia and Barnard’s clinics (and walk-in waits aren’t too shabby—Barnard averages just a 15 minute wait). One more thing to keep in mind: Urgent care facilities do cost money. They’ll ring you up a minimum of $60, and that number could increase based on what testing you opt into.
We’ve also pinpointed a few of the most important medical specialists that a sickly college student needs to know about: allergy specialists, dermatologists, and OB-GYNs. A lot of us encounter allergy issues at the turn of the season, so if that runny nose or throbbing headache gets a little out of hand, you might benefit from making an appointment with an allergist. If you’ve got troublesome skin (we’ve all been there—and it usually gets worse with dry winter weather) and are looking for a little help, meeting with a dermatologist can be a great way to get things under control fast. And as for OB-GYNs, it’s important to maintain your reproductive health—no matter the season.