Reform Cardinal Care

Sept. 21, 2018, 8:42 a.m.

Too many times have we heard horror stories about Vaden Health Center and the Stanford University hospital, the only two places that will accept cardinal care, Stanford’s Healthcare plan for students. These stories have gone so far as to make the New York Times, as students are denied long-term counseling services on campus and forced to spend copious amounts of time looking for counseling off campus, if they wish to see a counselor long-term. In our hospitals, students suffer not only from sickness, but from financial burden, especially from high copays. A student who wishes to remain anonymous remembered calling home in tears and apologizing that they had to go to the emergency room so much, as their parents were on the financial hook for a lot of it. Another had surgery in the Stanford University Hospital, and upon comparing her bill to others across the state, found that she paid on average, 30 percent more than if she had my surgery anywhere else in California. At the same time, she sought help from CAPS, as she suffered from depression as a result of surgical anesthesia, and was told that she would need to wait three weeks before a counselor could see her. She asked if there were any other options–she was told that other than an emergency helpline for suicidal students, there was not much to do but wait. She also suffered from complications due to the surgery months later, and the surgeon was unable to meet with her.

As undergraduate and graduate students at Stanford, we do not receive the healthcare we deserve. Our work—in classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and the field—is vital to this university, and yet, our basic healthcare needs are often unmet or underserved. It does not have to be this way. Compared to the health insurance plans offered to faculty, staff, and other direct employees of the university, the plan available through the university for graduate students is more expensive and provides a lower standard of care. We deserve the same healthcare that other staff and employees of this university currently receive.

Assuming a 50 percent university subsidy — above what most graduate students receive — undergraduate and graduate students on Cardinal Care still pay more in premiums ($103.50 per pay period compared to $0.00 for employees on Kaiser Permanente HMO, and $20.00 for employees enrolled in the Stanford Health Care Alliance), and hospital copays ($500 for students, $150 for employees) than staff[1]. For students with dependents, this gap becomes a chasm. Many graduate students with dependents enroll in California Health Insurance Exchange because Cardinal Care is prohibitively expensive. 

Not only do we pay more, but we receive poorer quality and more limited care. While employees have access to a range of hospitals and outpatient facilities within the Kaiser and Stanford Health Care Alliance networks, we can only use our insurance at Stanford Hospital, severely restricting our ability to compare and choose the doctors and facilities we want. This is unacceptable. Stanford Hospital is one of the most expensive in the region, charging as much as seven times the state average for common procedures[2]. Moreover, despite the high costs, Stanford University Medical Center also currently has one of the Bay Area’s worst rates for three hospital-acquired infections, ranking 176th among 188 qualifying California hospitals in terms of percentage of infections acquired in the hospital (2012-2016)[3]. We deserve better.

Expensive healthcare limits who is able to pursue a graduate education here, while low-quality care endangers the health of those of us who do.

On May 23, over 3,000 Palo Alto voters have submitted enough signatures to qualify a ballot initiative for the Nov. 6 election. The Palo Alto Accountable and Affordable Healthcare Initiative will prevent medical facilities, including hospitals, medical clinics, and other providers, from charging over 15 percent above the cost of services for the patient.  With this initiative, starting Jan. 1, 2019, providers that charge above the 15percent threshold are required to refund with interest and a reduction to payers within 180 days of each fiscal year. Furthermore, this initiative requires all medical facilities to annually submit information on the reasonable cost of services in patient care and every time a rebate or reduction has not been fully issued to the Administrative Services Department.

Add your name here to support a ballot measure (Measure F) that will offer undergraduate and graduate students the same quality healthcare that it offers employees. An institution with a $35 billion endowment has no excuse for treating its students this way. You have nothing to lose but your premiums.

In Solidarity,

The Stanford Coalition for Healthcare Reform


Contact The Stanford Coalition for Healthcare Reform at [email protected].

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