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Open Enrollment Frequently Asked Questions

Your annual Benefits Open Enrollment period will be here soon, from Monday, October 23 through Friday, November 10, 2017.  To better understand your options, what's changing, and why, review the answers to frequently asked questions.

What happens if I don't take action during Open Enrollment?

If you choose not to take action, most benefits will “roll over." This includes your medical plan and your covered dependents, which will roll over to 2018 at the new rates. It's important to note the items that do not roll over to the next year, and must be actively re-enrolled during the Open Enrollment period.

So take the time to review your options; otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period unless you experience a qualified life event (such as getting married, having a baby, changing job status) to make changes. View the Change Your Benefits page for more details.

Which medical plans give me access to Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF)?

The Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO), Healthcare + Savings and ACA Basic High-Deductible plans currently include Palo Alto Medical Foundation providers in their networks. The Medicare-eligible plans that currently include PAMF in their networks are the  Blue Shield Retiree PPO, Health Net Seniority Plus and Health Net COB.

Why are my contribution rates increasing?

While Stanford remains one of the few employers in the Bay Area to offer free employee-only coverage, keeping health care costs manageable for our employees while continuing to support the university's academic and operational expenses is an ongoing challenge. This year is no different as contribution rates for all plans will increase.

The SHCA, EPO and Healthcare + Savings medical plans are “self-funded” which means the university pays the claims when services are used and protects employees from becoming bankrupted by serious health issues. Each year the dollar amount the university spends on health care has grown. The rates are reflective of what we think the university will spend in 2018 based on the health of our employee population and the care they will require.

Several factors influence the cost of health care that have a compound effect on your contribution, including increased chronic conditions, demographics and specialty pharmacy needs. For Stanford, high-dollar claims and the varying costs between our plan providers also influence rates.

  • Plan members with chronic illnesses or within an older demographic often require specialized care and an increased use of specialty prescription drugs, raising the level of risk the university must plan for.
  • These “higher risk” members also typically enrolled in fee-for-service health plans (when doctors and hospitals get paid for each service performed, such as SHCA) versus managed care plans (such as Kaiser), which are typically more cost-effective.
  • Compounding the issue, younger employees, who typically have fewer health care needs are moving to the free plan for employees (Kaiser) keeping that plan’s costs lower. This results in the cost differential between the lowest-cost plan and the self-funded plans increasing.

The above factors have resulted in nominal increases to managed care services (Kaiser HMO), whereas, the cost of fee-for-service plans (SHCA, the EPO and Healthcare + Savings) have increased at a greater rate. With our Managed Competition approach to pricing, the university’s contribution is based on the lowest-cost plan (Kaiser), and with the more expensive plans rising over time, the cost to employees also increases.

What is the "lowest-cost plan?"

The lowest-cost plan determines the free plan for employee-only coverage. In 2018, the lowest-cost plan is Kaiser Permanente HMO. The university pays 100% of the plan premium of the lowest-cost plan for employee-only coverage, and 82% of the plan premium of the lowest-cost plan for employee + dependent coverage.

How do I learn more about BeWell, Stanford's Wellness Program?

Participating in BeWell is a great way to earn incentives while staying healthy. An employee who registers with the BeWell Program can earn up to $560 in taxable incentives, depending on participation level, and their spouse/registered domestic partner can earn a $220 incentive. Visit for program details.