on Health Insurance
for Stanford Employee & Retirees
from Jack Truher 2010-11-17-t
(1) - Stanford employees and retirees
still have health insurance
explained - but now on web sites. In these uncertain
times, some of us miss the personal touch from someone who
really knew the health insurance business and could take a
few minutes to explain some abstract concept wrap in jargon for us.
The remaining informational mechanisms are
recently explained by the HR Program Manager in November
2010, and on my provider Palo Alto Medical Foundation web
site. I have captured some of that language below:
(2) - Stanford's typical advice on health
insurance issues to employees and retirees arrived
recently in an email.
Explained is how to get help as below - with my
clarifications in boxes that follow paragraphs. So here you
see Stanford language in November 2010, with my grumblings
Stanford Benefits has several ways to
assist you with any questions you have regarding your
benefits. You can reach them:
- by phone at
877-905-2985, and press option 9.
calls are answered by usually temporary telephone
hires that may be in New Jersey or in Tempe,
Arizona, or who knows where. They
aren't your friend. They
may not want to tell you where they are. These
answering hires are qualified to read the
literature, if you have trouble doing that, and
are usually helpful in that regard.
They don't have plan-specific
information that would allow you to compare real
costs of typical surgeries or hospitalizations,
For that you will be directed to the plan
administrators, i.e. to employees of the plans,
not to Stanford people.
You can also send an email or chat to Stanford
- logging onto
- click My
- click Contact
Us link at the top of the page.
You may also contact plan administrators
This web page is to the global
corporate central committees for all things for
It is hardly contact with the "plan
You will have to navigate through the
swamps of corporate self-protectionism. The
answers are surely there. But
you won't be able to determine any future event,
until after it has happened.
As you can imagine, with well over 13,500
employees at Stanford, the last day of Open Enrollment has
been extremely busy, but the Stanford Benefits Service
team is available to help and we encourage you to call
The Stanford Benefits Service team is
a transient and generally disinterested and
uncommitted assembly of temporary workers, who are
sometimes alert and sometimes bored. They
rarely understand the intricacies needed for
making good choices, and would not often tell you
if they did.
Please use the resources mentioned above when
making inquiries about your Stanford benefits.
-- HR Program Manager
Employees can reasonably wonder why
Stanford has abandoned decades of personalized and
individualized attention, often from current,
part-time, or retired Stanford administrative
specialists who were made available in those
critical weeks preceding the health plan
I suspect the reason is fear of
It is true that when private, non-corporate
advisors speak, they do so on behalf of Stanford. If
they give bad advice (rarely happens), an employee
could sue for damages. But
that is not really reason enough. Disclaimers
are easy to write.
It seems more likely that Stanford
simply has less commitment to its employees and
retirees, and is taking the least-cost option for the
21st century. This may be in preparation for
draconian reductions in such benefits, where a
locally informed constituency could be an
a characteristic which Stanford abhors, in
the current era especially.
Whatever happened to the notion that thinking critically is how we arrive at solutions to complex problems? What is everybody hiding from?
(3) - beyond this, the Palo Alto Medical
Foundation web site directs
retirees to HICAP for counseling as follows:
(4) - Health Insurance Counseling and
Advocacy Program (HICAP)
PAMF is an official site for the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy
Program (HICAP). We offer free, one-hour
appointments with a trained counselor. Please call
650-934-7373 for an appointment.
Mountain View Center
701 E. El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
Main phone: 650-934-7000 or 408-739-6000
Mountain View Center Google Map
About HICAP (for
The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program
(HICAP) is a volunteer-supported program that provides
unbiased information to help Medicare beneficiaries make
the best choices for their individual health care needs.
Department of Aging administers HICAP
HICAP offers information and counseling on:
benefits and rights
- Changes in
Medicare and Medicare-related coverage
- How to appeal
Medicare fee-for-service and HMO denials of coverage
- Legal help and
representation at Medicare appeals and administrative
supplemental insurance (MediGap) coverage
- Medicare and
Advantage plans (formerly known as Medicare HMOs) and
- Retiree or
employer group health coverage
- Long-term care
- Health care
- Referral to
community-based social and aging program services
Jack's editorial - Will we be satisfied with
the HMO, or would the PPO be better. A very
individual and situational question. The simple
questions are often the hardest to answer.
Nearly all the informational forums which
formerly brought together experienced experts at tables
to meet our needs have vanished. We remain insurance
hungry, yet sometimes perplexed shoppers for
protection. Admittedly most
users don't need much help at all, but some do.
The transition through retirement is particularly
Only a little coaxing by Stanford
administration deliberately isolates employee and
retiree constituencies from each other on issues of
substance by continuing the permanent self-censorship
residual to our years of enforced peer competition.
To see this continued into retirement is not surprising,
but it is disheartening. Now, rather than learning
from each other in collaborative relationships and shared
experiences, we phone across a dozen state lines seeking
help from people who can only imagine our situations, and
lack any experience or certainty about any complications
of the craft. They have no reason to care.
These health insurance plans are a major
benefit to retirement at Stanford, but it's not easy to
get answers to the non-obvious questions. Usually it
doesn't matter. But when it does matter, we can be
rightfully upset with the abandonment. These are
uncertain times, both for administration, employees, and
retirees. Why eliminate all the experts that used to
appear at the Health Insurance forums. Why now?
It will only take a few years, and few
employees will know what they missed because those few
experts were never part of their experience.
-- Jack Truher