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Cardinal Care and Stanford Student Dependent Plan Health Insurance for 2020-2021

Feb 28 2020

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 2020-2021 academic year.

• the Cardinal Care premium rate will increase by 6.0 percent for 2020-2021, and
• the Dependent Plan premium rates will remain status quo (0 percent increase) for 2020-2021

Cardinal Care

Cardinal Care, the student health insurance plan administered by Health Net of California, will continue as an annual coverage product in 2020-2021. 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 2020-2021, the annual premium cost for Cardinal Care, which runs September 1 through August 31, will be $5,928 ($494 per month), a 6.0 percent increase over the 2019-2020 rate.
For 2020-2021, 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 monthly premium costs to the dependents will not increase 2020-2021.  The cost to a student spouse, for example, will continue at $461.63 for monthly coverage. Rates for other configurations of dependents are listed in the following table.

Student Dependent

Monthly Premium for 2020-2021







Spouse + Child


Spouse + Children


No changes to plan benefits will occur for 2020-2021. 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. Cardinal Care and the Dependent Plan continue to offer access to local, cutting edge networks of providers.

For Cardinal Care, the 2020-2021 rate increase is based on a mix of the factors mentioned above, but primarily on utilization.

For the Dependent Plan, the appreciably smaller size of the enrollee group limits the ability to spread risk (a phenomenon that helps keep costs down), so utilization is typically a key driver in cost rise for this population. Fortunately, a trend in lower utilization over the current review period, coupled with a decrease in associated taxes, has had a favorable impact on renewal cost for 2020-2021. In addition, as with the previous two years, subsidy funding from the university (which served to mitigate a roughly 20 percent increase in 2018-2019 and helped keep the increase to 12.2 percent in 2019-2020) will again be available, allowing the premiums to remain status quo, meaning a zero percent increase for 2020-2021.

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

This overview of Cardinal Care and the Dependent Plan for 2020-2021 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 2020-2021 in the annual health publication, Student Health Matters, distributed in the late spring/early summer.

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