One-year pilot return of the Shopping Express ‘under consideration,’ administrators tell the GSC 

March 16, 2023, 8:15 p.m.

The University has confirmed that a one-year pilot of the Shopping Express Marguerite line is under consideration, according to communications with The Daily and the GSC. At its Tuesday meeting, members of the GSC said that they will continue to advocate for a full return of the line. 

The GSC also received an update from Vaden Health Center’s director of finance and administration, who revealed that the University’s student health insurance plan, Cardinal Care, is switching providers this fall.

The shopping express

Representative to the Faculty Senate and fourth-year chemistry Ph.D. student Lawrence Berg gave an update on the status of a discontinued Marguerite line known as the Shopping Express, which connected students to nearby stores like Target and Walmart.  The GSC has pushed for the return of the Shopping Express and the N and O Marguerite lines, and the Undergraduate Senate (UGS) has created a petition calling for the reinstatement of all three lines has received upwards of 1600 signatures.

At last week’s faculty senate meeting, Provost Persis Drell confirmed that the N and O lines of the Marguerite will not be returning. However, she said that the return of the Shopping Express “is being considered.”

Berg said that the GSC, members of the UGS, representatives of the Postdoctoral Council and the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) met to discuss a possible schedule for the Shopping Express. Berg said that the four groups unanimously agreed upon the days that they would like the Shopping Express to run: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Berg added that the potential new route would resemble the old route, but it would include a short detour towards the Oak Creek Apartments, which Stanford acquired for postdoctoral students in September 2022.

In a copy of an email to Berg obtained by The Daily, Liz Silva, associate vice provost for graduate education, wrote that administrators have provided Provost Drell with estimated costs and are “very close to approval of a financial commitment.” 

The University has not confirmed the return of the Shopping Express. University spokesperson Stett Holbrook wrote in an email to The Daily that “Operation of the shopping express for a one-year pilot study is currently under consideration. The N and O lines are not being considered at this time.”

“We have continued our statement that we want — and it’s our demand — that we have a full service return” of the old Marguerite lines, Berg said.

Switching Cardinal Care providers

Leigh Stacy, the director of finance and administration at the Vaden Health Center, presented the results of a Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding Stanford’s health insurance system. The presentation marks the latest in the GSC’s discussions of student healthcare after the council heard a presentation from undergraduate Nicolas Garcia ’23 about Cardinal Care last week

Stacy said that around 25% of undergrads and 75% of grad students rely on Cardinal Care, Stanford’s health insurance plan, every year. Health Net has been the provider for Cardinal Care since the 2010-2011 academic year, according to Stacy. She said that recently, however, she has been working with healthcare consulting group Willis Towers Watson to identify health insurances that would best benefit students.

The providers Health Net, Anthem and Aetna were all considered, according to Stacy, and Aetna was ultimately selected after considering the input of students, providers and staff. 

Stacy added that Aetna was selected in part because it administers a mental health plan and that it will also provide medical and dental insurance.

The current Cardinal Network will be expanded to include the Sutter Health Network because of the change in providers. Starting Sept. 1 of this year, Tier 1 of Cardinal Care will include Stanford Health Care, Menlo Medical and Sutter Health. 

Stacy said that the switch to Aetna will lead to a 5.32% increase in the Cardinal Care premium rate in the 2023-2024 academic year. She added that the Dependent Plan premium rate will go up by 11.7% in the same year.

The annual out-of-pocket Tier 1 copay for students will remain capped at $2,000, Stacy said. Her slides stated that the out-of-pocket maximum for dependents may decrease. 

According to Stacy, Vaden conducted an analysis to compare Cardinal Care’s offerings to the offerings available through Covered California, a state-wide and government-subsidized health insurance marketplace. According to Vaden’s website, the Cardinal Care’s offerings “compare very favorably” to similar insurance plans on the exchange. Vaden’s website notes that the Dependent Plan (the University’s offering for students’ dependents) has experienced decreasing enrollment. Stacy said that many dependents are turning to competitive alternatives for coverage through Covered California. Since Covered California offers subsidized insurance plans, she said that dependents’ turning to the exchange is “actually a good thing.”

According to the Covered California website, individuals shopping for health insurance plans on the exchange, depending on their estimated income levels, may qualify for low-cost Medi-Cal, or specific health plans offered on the exchange. The website also notes that many Californians, even families earning up to $154,500 per year, may qualify for financial assistance in paying their premiums under the health plans offered through Covered California.

GSC co-chair and third-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. student Jason Anderson said that he thinks that “it’s a little bit strange to hear that it would be good for people to go on state sponsored health care plans, when Stanford definitely has the resources to cover dependent healthcare and still make it affordable.”

Stacy responded that her comments were merely speculative and that she doesn’t know exactly why people were going to Covered California, but that she thinks the subsidies may be one reason.

A previous version of this article misstated who created the petition to bring back the N and O lines of the Marguerite. The Daily regrets this error.

Judy N. Liu '26 is the Academics desk editor for News and staff writer at The Daily.

Login or create an account