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Health & Well-Being

Pep Rally, 2022. Credit: Micaela Go

Cardinal Care & Stanford Student Dependent Health Insurance for 2023-2024

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Stanford University requires that all registered students carry adequate health insurance. This requirement can be met either through Cardinal Care, the University-sponsored health insurance plan, or through an alternative insurance plan that has comparable benefits.

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2023-2024 Information

Vaden Health Services is pleased to announce information regarding the Cardinal Care Health Insurance Plan and coverage for Stanford student dependents for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Here are key changes:

  • Aetna has been selected as the new vendor to insure and administer the Cardinal Care medical, mental health, and dental programs for 2023-2024.
  • The Sutter Health network, including 24 acute care hospitals and over 200 clinics in Northern California, will be added to the options for Tier 1 coverage. This means that as of September 1, 2023, the Cardinal Care Tier 1 in-network providers will include Stanford Health Care, Menlo Medical Clinic, and Sutter Health.
  • Alternatively, students have the option of accessing care from any other Aetna provider at the Tier 2 level of coverage.
  • The current referral process, which requires students to be seen at Vaden Health Center in order to access specialist care at the Tier 1 level of benefits, is being reworked to make direct access to specialist care easier in those situations that allow it. More information on this new process will be forthcoming.
  • The entire Aetna network will be available for mental health support.
  • The Stanford Student Dependent Health Insurance Plan will be integrated into Cardinal Care, renamed “Dependent Care,” and also administered by Aetna beginning in 2023-2024. Dependents will be offered a more comprehensive “platinum level” plan (the current plan is “gold level,” as defined by the Affordable Care Act). Additionally, the plan will now include travel assistance and dental benefits. Dependents will continue to receive care from off-campus providers and core components of eligibility and enrollment will remain in place.
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  • The Cardinal Care premium rate for students will increase by 5.3% for 2023-2024.
  • Rates for dependent coverage will increase by 11.7% for 2023-2024.
  • The $35 copay for specialist care will decrease from $35 to $25 per visit.
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Cardinal Care and Dependent Care 

Cardinal Care, the student health insurance plan, will continue as an annual coverage product in 2023-2024. This means that acknowledgement of enrollment in the plan (or default enrollment in the absence of timely acknowledgement), OR waiver of enrollment, in a student’s first registered quarter of the academic year is a commitment that will extend through August 31. For 2023-2024, the annual premium cost for Cardinal Care, which runs September 1 through August 31, will be $594 monthly ($7,128 annually), a 5.3% increase over the 2022-2023 rate.

For 2023-2024 the plan will continue to provide comprehensive benefits (comparable to a 'Platinum' plan through CoveredCA), along with an expanded network which includes in-network care at Stanford Medical Center and Sutter Health.  Dental coverage will continue to be part of the Cardinal Care package of benefits as well. (Diagnostic and preventive care and 'basic' restorative services, up to $1,000 per year, are offered.)

Dependent Care, the student dependent health insurance plan, is open to dependents of new students (who are enrolled in Cardinal Care) during a 30-day open-enrollment period that occurs only at the beginning of the student's academic career, or when an eligible student dependent experiences a qualifying life event. The monthly premium costs to the dependents will increase 11.7% for 2023-2024.  The cost to a student spouse, for example, will be $578.00 for monthly coverage. Rates for other configurations of dependents are listed in the following table:

Dependent Care Monthly Premium for 2023-2024

  • Spouse $578.00
  • Child $300.56
  • Children $541.02
  • Spouse + Child $878.56
  • Spouse + Children $1,119.02
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Factors Considered as Part of these Changes

Vaden’s decision to move to Aetna for the 2023-2024 plan year was driven by a number of considerations, chief among them more competitive rates and expanded network options. Integration of the Stanford Student Dependent Health Insurance Plan with Cardinal Care was a pre-emptive move designed to spread risk across a larger population as a means to help contain cost rise in the future. Vaden Health Center solicited feedback from student representatives, providers, and other campus stakeholders as part of the evaluation process.

As with prior years, it is important to note that, in general, many factors contribute to health insurance costs for students and their dependents. Among them are plan experience (the actual cost of all services provided in the prior year), trends in usage (how many and what types of services enrollees are using), advances in and new uses of technology, and location(s) where care is occurring. Cardinal Care and the dependent plan have continued to offer access to local, cutting-edge networks of providers and will continue to do so in the coming year.

For Cardinal Care, the 2023-2024 rate increase is based on a mix of the factors mentioned above, with emphasis on increased post-pandemic utilization.

For Dependent Care (the dependent plan), the historical and appreciably smaller size of the enrollee group has limited the ability to spread risk (spreading risk across a large population is a phenomenon that helps keep cost down), so utilization has been a key driver in cost rise for this population as well. As with previous years, subsidy funding from the university (which served to mitigate an overall increase of roughly 20% in 2018-2019, kept the dependent share of the overall increase to 12.2% in 2019-2020, allowed 0% increase to cost share for dependents in 2020-2021,  a 2% increase in 2021-2022, and a 9.9% increase for 2022-2023) will once again be applied.

As part of any plan renewal process, ways to reduce costs, including those that might result from modifications in enrollee behavior (such as the use of "urgent care" services instead of "emergency" services if a situation allows it) are routinely explored. Ultimately, decisions made strive to reflect the combination of cost and coverage that best serves the needs of the University's diverse population.

Additional Information

This overview of Cardinal Care and dependent coverage for 2023-2024 is intended to provide students and their families with key points about the upcoming plan year. As with previous years, new and returning students will be provided with more detailed information about health insurance and costs for 2023-2024 in the annual health publication, Student Health Matters, distributed in the late spring/early summer.