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Cardinal Care to have expanded coverage, increased cost under Affordable Care Act

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be a contentious issue in the run-up to the 2012 election, the legislation’s eventual impact on the Stanford community could present a trade-off between expanded coverage and higher premium costs, according to University health administrators.

Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, said that for Stanford students enrolled in Cardinal Care, the principal benefits of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” are the expansion of free preventive care — such as some immunizations and contraceptives, which currently require a $20 co-payment fee — and the removal of a $5 million lifetime limit on services received from outside health care providers.

Friedman acknowledged, however, that the broader pool of applicants insurance companies are now legally required to service might result in higher costs per customer and a subsequent rise in Cardinal Care premiums. As Cardinal Care spends more than 80 percent of premiums received on health services, enrolled students will receive no benefit from the ACA’s provision, which grants rebates to insurers spending below that threshold.

Friedman also noted that despite the ACA’s provision allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ family policy — an attempt to bridge the gap in coverage for recent college graduates seeking employment — the clause has yet to impact Cardinal Care’s enrollment among students.

“To date Cardinal Care enrollment has remained stable, without a major shift of students to parents’ employer health coverage,” Friedman wrote.

At this time, around 30 percent of undergraduates and 75 percent of graduate students have Cardinal Care.

Campus political groups differed in their opinion of the law’s impact on both the Stanford community and the nation as a whole.

“The ability to stay on parents’ health care until the age of 26 … gives us flexibility in the next few years,” said Lindsay Lamont ’13, president of the Stanford Democrats. “Another big issue that is often overlooked is access to preventive care, as well as birth control without co-pays, [which] is huge … Obamacare will be a major asset for our generation.”

However, students on the right disagree.

“Obamacare, especially for young people, is going to be a huge burden tax-wise, and I think college students recognize that,” said Kenneth Capps ’13, a Stanford Conservative Society officer. “Young people buying health insurance is often a different scenario than it is for people with previous conditions or older people.”

“I applaud the expanded coverage,” Friedman wrote in an email to The Daily. “But I expect it to cost more beginning next year after the insurance company reviews this year’s total claims experience. I’m still concerned about the squeeze on students’ tight budgets.”


Marshall Watkins is an officer in the Stanford Conservative Society. Marianne Levine contributed to this report and interviewed Kenneth Capps ’13.

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