Stanford offers new low-cost healthcare option for employees

Oct. 24, 2013, 1:16 a.m.

Amid concerns over rising healthcare costs, Stanford recently launched a new, low-cost healthcare option for its employees and their dependents with an extended open enrollment date until Nov. 19.

Stanford HealthCare Alliance (SHCA) connects employees and their dependents with a network of physicians from Stanford Hospital & Clinics, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and other local providers.

While employees who choose the SHCA plan will be required to select a primary care physician from over 300 primary care providers, they will also have access to 2,300 specialists across the Bay Area, according to information available on the SHPA website. The chosen primary care physician will coordinate the care throughout the greater network.

According to Neal Evans, director of Health and Welfare Programs for University Human Resources, the new healthcare plan is priced similarly to the Kaiser Permanente HMO plan, which was previously the cheapest option for Stanford employees. Now, both SHCA and the Kaiser HMO provide free, employee-only coverage.

To allow for this free coverage, the University will pay a semi-monthly contribution of $290.74 to Stanford Hospital & Clinics. Employees whose family members share a plan will be required to contribute an additional, semi-monthly payment, though it would still be less than what they would have to pay under the other three current options.

“Cost was really becoming an issue for [Stanford] employees,” Evans said. “The arrangement is really premised on delivering efficient, high-quality care at a reasonable price.”

James Larkin, director of Corporate Communications & Public Relations for Stanford Hospital & Clinics, predicts that SHCA’s emphasis on customer service and user accessibility will attract many Stanford employees to the new plan in addition to reducing the price tag.

One such benefit is that each patient will be assigned a member care specialist who will help patients coordinate all of their individual medical plans. For example, Larkin said that if an employee is newly diagnosed with diabetes, he or she might need to see a specialist, a nutritionist and a diabetes education expert.

“It’s a lot to know about managing your condition,” Larkin said. “The member care specialist system really takes all of the legwork out of what the patients would normally have to do on their own.”

SHCA also provides access to “telemedicine,” allowing patients to communicate with their physician via video chat, set up a visit via email and even check lab results online. This will make care much more accessible to employees, Larkin said.

In addition to SHCA and Kaiser HMO, Stanford offers an EPO plan, a PPO plan and a high-deductible plan for employees.

Evans expects that some employees who are currently under the PPO plan—the most expensive option—will switch to SHCA, as it will allow them access to the same providers at a lower price point. The University is anticipating roughly 1,700 employees to select the new plan during this open enrollment period, Evans added.

The lower-cost options may not be ideal for everyone, however, since both SHCA and Kaiser are regional to the Bay Area and California, respectively.

“If you have kids back East, you probably won’t select that plan unless they’re coming home on a regular basis,” Evans said.

Beginning Oct. 28, the extended enrollment period will allow employees more time to review the details of the new medical plan, thus giving them a chance to make an informed healthcare selection among a group of five distinct coverage plans.

After the November deadline, Stanford employees will be unable to change plans or add or drop eligible dependents from coverage until next fall, given no major life events come up. Qualified life events may include a change in marriage or partnership, welcoming a new child to the family, taking a leave of absence or experiencing a change in employment, according to the University’s human resources website.

“Of course, everyone has their own health profile and their own concerns,” Larkin said. “We built this so that it could be appealing to a broad population.”

Contact Dania Marinshaw at daniam ‘at’

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