Voluntary Benefit Program Plan Essentials

Medical Self Insurance & Self Funded Plans

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Am I a candidate for a Self-Funded plan? By Jeff Schreiber, ARM



As a mid-size or large-group employer, you have been down this road too many times:


The renewal letter has arrived delivering with it notice of a double-digit rate increase in spite of the fact that the members of your group have been in relatively good health and claims experience has been low.


Carrier’s retort is all too familiar – poor industry experience, increased taxes and other expenses have left them no choice but to raise across the board


Immediate response is “I should just self-fund”. However, when the anger and frustration subside, the employer is left with more questions than answers as to the viability of self-funding medical insurance. Hence, it remains as “I should have…”


The fact is that most brokers have repeatedly steered employers away from self-funding options. Some have done this to avoid placing their clients at risk from adverse claim experience. Others have avoided it due to lack of clear understanding of the mechanics of a self-funded plan. With health insurance premiums constantly on the rise and with the implementation of Healthcare Reform projected to drive rates even higher, self-funding may be coming closer to reality than possibility. Now more than ever, employers need to be educated and understand how self-funding works and whether they can stand to benefit from it.


This article offers a brief overview on self-funding medical benefits. For additional information or to setup a meeting, please contact us at 516-576-0007.



Self-Funded vs. Fully Insured



A traditional health plan is a pure risk transfer plan. The group pays fixed premium monthly to the insurance carrier and the insurance carrier is then responsible for all claim payments – with exception of any cost sharing obligations levied to the insured – and all administrative services. The insurance carrier is also the risk taker on the policy and any unused premium dollars is retained by the insurer as profits.


In a self-funded health plan, the employer plays the role of the insurer. Employer is now responsible for putting together a plan design and processing enrollments and claims. This gives the employer added control over the day to day administration of the health plan. It also places the employer in the risk taker position with the upside of seeing a reduction in overall cost based on claim experience.



The Role of the TPA



Most employers are not in the business of medical administration. Rather than trying to develop expertise in these areas, they partner with a qualified Third Party Administrator (“TPA”). The TPA is paid a monthly fee per employee and the TPA works closely with the employer to handle the following services that enable the self-funded plan to run efficiently:








Specific: This provides coverage when the total claim amount for a claimant exceeds the specific (“spec”) deductible. This scenario is similar to traditional insurance policies where the carrier pays claims in excess of the deductible. However, unlike other lines of insurance, this deductible is per claimant and not per claim. Therefore, multiple claims on a member combine to reach the attachment point after which stop-loss coverage will apply.

Aggregate: Aggregate (“agg.”) coverage pays all claims for the group once the total claims for the group exceed the aggregate attachment point. The aggregate attachment point is calculated by the insurer to be approximately 125% of expected annual claims for the entire group. While Specific coverage is purchased to protect against catastrophic claim experience from an individual, aggregate coverage is purchased to protect against catastrophic experience at the group level.

Terms of Coverage: Stop-Loss insurance policies run for a period of 12 months and contain the terms for which period of time the claims must be incurred and paid. There are numerous options for these periods. The most common options are known as 12/12 and 12/15.





5 Advantages of Self-Funding


There are a number of advantages that a self-funding plan offers:


  1. Improved Cash Flow – Rather than pay fixed costs on a monthly basis to the carrier, the employer is now paying a much smaller amount of monthly fixed costs (stop-loss plus administration fee is usually around 25% of regular monthly premium). The claim portion is paid on an “as billed” basis which allows the employer to benefit from the cash flow.


  1. Customized Plan Designs – No more need to be restricted to boiler plate benefits offered by insurance carriers


  1. More Control on claims administration – Avoid the unnecessary claim payouts


  1. Less Impact from Healthcare Reform – Self-funded plans are impacted less by Healthcare Reform than fully insured plans. For example, self-funded plans are not subject to state mandates. In addition, some of the fees such as the 3% Insurer tax do not apply to self-funded plans. While there is a projected increase in cost to self-funded plans as a result of Healthcare Reform, that percentage increase is far less than the large 30% increase projected for fully-insured plans.


  1. Ability to Save $$$ - Historically, most self-funded plans have been able to reduce cost of health insurance an average of 15% to 20% annually.


Candidates for Self-Funding


To obtain the answer to that question, you should be able to identify the status of the issues below:









Personal Lines                      

Resources                      

Group Benefits                      

Commercial Lines                      

Programs   

Financial Planning                      

Executive Plans                      

Workers Comp                      

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