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Individual seeing a doctor illustration. Credit: grivina + Two Stanford community photos

Health Insurance Overview

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Health Insurance is important. A variety of health care services are available at Vaden Health Center on the Stanford campus and many are covered under the Campus Health Service Fee ('Health Fee'). For the services that Vaden can’t or doesn’t provide, such as emergency care, hospitalization, or care when a student is traveling away from campus, or for those services that are offered at Vaden but not covered under the Health Fee, such as specialty care, physical therapy, or prescriptions, health insurance is needed.

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Because no one can accurately predict what type of medical care might be needed in the future, and because unforeseen scenarios can crop up in the course of an academic career, Stanford University requires that every registered student carry adequate health insurance. This requirement can be met either through Cardinal Care, Stanford’s student health insurance plan, or through an alternative insurance plan that has comparable benefits. The key is deciphering whether coverage you may already have, or are planning to purchase, will serve you well in the Stanford vicinity and/or wherever else you may be studying or traveling.

In the next sections, we will introduce you to Cardinal Care. We will also provide some information on alternative options for health insurance coverage.

As you explore these options for coverage, it is important to note that, as part of the university's requirement that all students have adequate health insurance coverage, every registered student is automatically enrolled in Cardinal Care in his/her first registered quarter of each academic year. This means that whatever you decide about coverage, you will need to take action in Axess by the applicable deadline to either: 

  • Acknowledge enrollment in Cardinal Care or
  • Waive coverage in Cardinal Care
Stanford Gleaning Project. Left to right: Gabriela Leslie, '14 (Earth Systems Program), Mary Chambers, '15, co-presidents of SGP, and Martell Hesketh, '15 (Program in Human Biology), pick loquats for the Stanford Gleaning Project in the Main Quadrangle. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News
Nurse measuring patient blood pressure. Credit: @rawpixel, via Freepik

How U.S. Health Insurance Works

Health care in the United States can be very expensive. A single doctor’s office visit may cost several hundred dollars and an average three-day hospital stay can run tens of thousands of dollars (or even more) depending on the type of care provided. Most of us could not afford to pay such large sums if we get sick, especially since we don’t know when we might become ill or injured or how much care we might need. Health insurance offers a way to reduce such costs to more reasonable amounts.

Insurance vs. Campus Health Service Fee

The Campus Health Service Fee ('Health Fee') is a mandatory fee for all students on the Stanford campus. The fee allows students to have care at Vaden Health Center. Concurrently, all students must also have adequate health insurance for medical needs that are not provided at Vaden or are not covered under the Health Fee.

Arts Track student Brady Magaoay visits the the Rothko room at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., where he is an intern as part of the Stanford in Washington program. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Insurance Requirements

Students have diverse, individual needs, but the student community has a great deal in common, too. One need shared by all is the need for protection against unanticipated or excessive health care expenses. Accordingly, Stanford requires that all students have adequate health insurance coverage.

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Questions? Contact us here