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Cardinal Care and Stanford Student Dependent Plan Health Insurance for 2019-2020

Mar 12 2019

Upon concluding the annual renewal analyses, overseen by a seasoned team of health care consultants, Vaden Health Center has announced the Cardinal Care Health Insurance Plan and Student Dependent Health Insurance Plan (Dependent Plan) rates for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Amid industry wide continuing increases in health care costs 
• the Cardinal Care premium rate will increase by 7.4 percent for 2019-2020, and
• the Dependent Plan premium rates will increase 12.2 percent for 2019-2020

Each of the 2019-2020 final rates has benefitted from application of university subsidy.

Cardinal Care

Cardinal Care, administered by Health Net of California, will continue as an annual coverage plan in 2019-2020. 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 2019-2020, the annual premium cost for Cardinal Care, which runs September 1 through August 31, will be $5,592 ($466 per month), a 7.4 percent increase over the 2018-2019 rate.
For 2019-2020, no changes will occur to the Cardinal Care coverage design. The plan will continue to provide comprehensive benefits (comparable to a 'Platinum' plan through CoveredCA) and in-network care at Stanford Medical Center.  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 through Delta Dental PPO providers.)

Dependent Plan

The Student Dependent Health Insurance Plan (Dependent Plan) is available to dependents of students who are enrolled in Cardinal Care. The aggregate monthly premium costs to the dependents will increase 12.2 percent in 2019-2020.  The cost to a student spouse, for example, will be $461.63 for monthly coverage. Rates for other configurations of dependents are listed in the following table.

Student Dependent

Monthly Premium for 2018-2019

Monthly Premium for 2019-2020










Spouse + Child



Spouse + Children



No changes to Dependent Plan benefits will occur for 2019-2020. The Stanford Student Dependent Health Insurance Plan enrollment is open to dependents of new students during a 30-day open-enrollment period that occurs only at the beginning of the student's academic career, or when any student dependent experiences a qualifying life event.

Factors Contributing to Increased Costs

Many factors contribute to health insurance costs for students and their dependents. Chief among them are plan experience (the actual cost of all services provided in the prior year), trends in usage (what types of services enrollees are using), advances in and new uses of technology, and location(s) where care is occurring. While the Cardinal Care plan has approximately 8,000 enrollees over which risk can be spread, the Dependent Plan, with its substantially smaller population, is significantly more vulnerable to spikes in utilization.

For Cardinal Care, the 2019-2020 rate increase is based on a mix of the factors mentioned above. The 7.4 percent increase is in keeping with recent statewide trends in medical cost rise.

For the Dependent Plan, the smaller size of the enrollee group coupled with robust utilization has caused costs to soar. The subsidy funding provided by the university for the current plan year (2018-2019) served to mitigate a roughly 20 percent increase. Additional subsidy funding for 2019-2020 will serve the same purpose for the upcoming plan year and keep the increase to 12.2 percent.

As part of the 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, Cardinal Care and the Stanford Student Dependent Health Insurance Plan strive to reflect the combination of cost and coverage that best serves the needs of the university's diverse population
On a larger scale, the university continues its work to mitigate the serious affordability challenges facing many segments of the university community. Identifying ways in which to navigate these challenges, which go well beyond health care costs, is a priority in the university's Long-Range Planning initiatives.

Additional Information and Future Considerations

This overview of Cardinal Care and the Dependent Plan for 2019-2020 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 2019-2020 in the annual health publication, Student Health Matters, distributed in the late spring/early summer.
Already of concern for the future is speculation that health care premiums will continue to rise as a result of federal policy changes having impact to the Affordable Care Act. Vaden Health Center and its consultants will keep informed about changes in the insurance industry that might affect our student and student dependent populations, and will continue to assess feedback and collect general information about health care priorities and coverage needs from students.

For questions at this time, please contact Vaden's Insurance and Referral Office at 650-723-2135 or by submitting a help ticket at (Student Services & Academics → Student Health).