Vaden revamps insurance

Feb. 10, 2010, 1:04 a.m.
Vaden revamps insurance
BECCA DEL MONTE/The Stanford Daily

University officials on Tuesday announced a new dependent health care offering for students, which Stanford has lacked since 2006.

Significant changes to Cardinal Care, the student health insurance plan, were also announced; changes to both programs will go into effect Sept. 1.

Cardinal Care will extend to a mandatory 12-month period will become mandatory for international students, about 80 percent of whom already buy that coverage, said Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center.

The new dependent insurance plan will limit enrollment, be subsidized by the University and offer a cost-effective pricing brought about by a new insurance carrier, Friedman said.

Health Net of California outbid previous Stanford carrier Aetna in a competitive bid, according to Friedman.

A plan similar to the new dependent insurance plan has been offered in past years, but was stopped in 2006.

“[The previous plan] suffered from having small numbers of people in it — lots of medical expenses because of what we call ‘adverse selection,’” Friedman said. “The plan became financially too expensive and in the end, unsustainable.”

Dependent Insurance

The new, optional dependent insurance plan for the spouses, domestic partners and children of Stanford students comes with thorough changes to its enrollment period. Starting next academic year, students will only have the option of enrolling their dependents upon initial matriculation, unless they have a “qualifying life event.”

“That means that there is a one-time open enrollment for any student family that wants to be in the plan,” Friedman said. “For new students, that’s going to be a period of time right before they first arrive at the University.”

According to Friedman, this restriction will prevent students from joining the plan and then dropping it based on when they may or may not need health care. For students, he notes, this means that they should plan well in advance.

“It makes it more efficient, and it means that the experience for the plan will be better,” he said. “One of the problems with the previous plan was that it was left open so that people could come onto the plan — [they] could leave when they chose based on when they needed it.”

“Qualifying life events,” a term referring to such instances as involuntary loss of previous coverage, the birth of a child or marriage, when students might involuntarily lose their coverage, are the only exception to enrolling in the plan past the arrival deadline.

Additionally, Stanford will subsidize some of the plan, although how much it will cover is unclear. That number, says Friedman, will depend on the number of people who enroll in the plan, which is uncertain until it is officially implemented in September.

Overall, Friedman said that Health Net is offering cost-effective pricing, with spouse, domestic partner and child premiums at $202 and $103 a month, respectively.

“Our hope is by offering a very low premium that we’ll get a relatively high number of healthy people in the plan to help support it over time,” he continued. “It’s attractive for people arriving at the University who say, ‘Yes, I want my spouse, domestic partner, child covered, and that’s what we want. It’s not only for people facing immediate medical expenses . . . It’s a long-term plan.”

The application for the plan and further details will be posted on Vaden’s Web site as they become available, Friedman said.

Changes to Cardinal Care

Changes to Cardinal Care involve making the package an annual enrollment plan, rather than by-the-quarter. Once Cardinal Care is purchased, it would last for the rest of the academic year, eliminating the option for students to pick which portion of the year for which they buy coverage.

“It [the previous plan] was leaving people uninsured for the quarter that they weren’t in the University . . . We’re trying to eliminate this uncovered period for students.”

The cost of Cardinal Care, however, is now prorated for students entering school after fall quarter. For students that enroll in the autumn, the cost is $1,024 per quarter, increasing to $1,152 for students who enter Stanford during winter quarter and $1,536 for students who enroll in the spring. Students will not be billed during the summer.

In total, for students who choose to have Cardinal Care in the fall, the annual cost will be $3,072. Although there will be a four percent decrease in costs for the new plan, the quarterly bill will increase. Whereas the new quarterly cost equates to $768 evenly throughout the year in comparison to this year’s current charge of $800, students must pay for summer quarter coverage and are billed during three quarters, increasing the quarterly bill by $224 if the student enters in the fall.

“I think the other students, when they see that it’s going to cover them when it’s going to cover them – they’re going to appreciate that they now have full year coverage,” Friedman said.

The plan in similar to the current Cardinal Care package in that students are automatically enrolled during their first registered quarter. Students can defer enrollment by proving that they have equivalent health insurance in Axess. The deadline for students to waive Cardinal Care this year is Sept. 15 if the student matriculates in the fall.

Other changes to the new plan include an added transgender surgical benefit and a specialist visit copay increase to $20. International students will also be required to pay for Cardinal Care and no longer have the option to waive.

“About 80 percent of international students are already on Cardinal Care,” Friedman said. “We find that the 20 percent who are not — many of them have plans that don’t have adequate coverage in the US.”

The mandatory coverage, according to Friedman, was a recommendation from the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing task force during discussions about mental health coverage. The task force determined that mental health care was inadequately covered.

International students who have difficulty paying for this fixed coverage may get the option for financial aid.

Information on both plans was published yesterday on Vaden’s Web site. The center will e-mail students this week, Friedman said.

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