10 Terms You Need to Know in Self-Insured Health Plans

Confused by all the “insurance-speak” in your company health plan? Here’s a quick guide for phrases in benefit plans for self-insured employers.


self-insured

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Self-Insured: What Does It Mean?

1 Self-Insured: Also called self-funding. Employers choose this model of funding to pay for health claims from company assets and employee premiums. Self-insurance allows employers to pay only for actual claims, instead of the fixed premiums of fully-insured plans. A 2013 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation noted three of five covered employees are in self-insured health plans.[1]

2 ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, passed by Congress to establish federal regulations for self-funded benefit plans. Self-funded employers avoid fees such as the Health Insurance Provider Fee,[2] Risk Adjustment Fee[3] and Federally Facilitated Exchange User FeeSelf-funded employers also avoid certain state premium taxes.

3 SPD: Summary Plan Description that lists health plan terms and conditions, written for a particular employer or organization. The SPD defines the benefit coverage and exclusions. MedCost ensures that coverage and exclusions mirror the stop loss contract. If the stop loss contract does not mirror benefits offered, the employer may have to pay claims that were not covered by the stop loss carrier.

Fixed Vs. Variable Cost

self-insured

4 Fixed Cost: Predetermined fees that are paid as part of a health plan, regardless of actual expenses. Fully-insured plans are 100% fixed cost, paid out in set premium rates to the carrier. Self-insured fixed costs range from 18%—21% of total plan costs for administrative fees and stop loss insurance.

5 Variable Cost: Also called soft dollars, which may translate into potential savings for a self-funded employer. Prudent employers deposit funds for the total estimated employee claims into a reserve account in the company’s name. These dedicated funds remain in the employer’s account for future medical expenses if not spent during a plan year. MedCost provides professional underwriting services to help employers ensure that they are adequately covered for both expected and unexpected claims.

6 Corridor: Also known as claims or risk corridor, or margin. Underwriters include this as a cushion to cover unexpected claims. Generally this amount is around 25% for self-funded plans and 20% for fully-insured plans. Expected claims plus risk corridor (for variable expenses) determine the maximum liability (or attachment point).

Stop Loss Insurance

7 Stop Loss Insurance: Coverage designed to protect self-funded employers from the risk of catastrophic claims beyond a predetermined liability. MedCost underwriters recommend policies with consistency between the stop loss policy and the employer’s SPD, to avoid any gaps in coverage when claims are submitted.[4]

8 Specific Stop Loss Deductible: The limit of liability under stop loss coverage on an individual employee covered under an employer’s heath care plan. The employer chooses this amount based on total group size and selected risk tolerance.

Stop Loss Coverage Specific Example

Self-insured
Jane Smith suffers from renal failure and undergoes kidney dialysis. Her claims total $300,000. Jane’s employer is self-funded and has purchased specific stop loss with a $75,000 deductible.

Total Claim $300,000
Employer Deductible $75,000
Amount Reimbursed by Stop Loss Carrier $225,000

9 Aggregate Stop Loss Deductible: This amount is the self-funded employer’s overall or group liability under a stop loss policy. Underwriters typically project expected claims plus a 25% margin to determine an employer’s maximum liability (or attachment point).

Stop Loss Coverage Aggregate Example

self-insured

  • Includes claims paid that do not exceed the specific deductible
  • When underwritten appropriately, expenses should approach the amount of expected claims ($4 million), rather than the maximum liability ($5 million)
Expected claims $4,000,000
25% Margin $1,000,000
Maximum Claims Liability $5,000,000

10 Benefits Administrator: Also called a third party administrator (TPA) or administrative services organization (ASO). Employers typically contract with an administrator to handle benefits plan documents, claims payments and provide other services. Experienced administrative companies like MedCost can preserve significant savings for employers through careful management of resources, with customized benefits and targeted products to meet employer needs.

We’ve spent over 30 years in the industry. We know health care choices are complicated and not getting any simpler.

Questions?

Have questions? Contact your health care consultant or Jason at MedCost for more resources.


 

[1] “2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey,” Kaiser Family Foundation, August 20, 2013, http://kff.org/report-section/ehbs-2013-section-10/

[2] “Affordable Care Act Provision 9010, Health Insurance Providers Fee,” http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Corporations/Affordable-Care-Act-Provision-9010

[3] “Explaining Health Care Reform: Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridors,” Kaiser Family Foundation, January 22, 2014, http://kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/explaining-health-care-reform-risk-adjustment-reinsurance-and-risk-corridors/

[4] For more information, download Stop Loss Coverage White Paper: Maximizing Benefits, Limiting Risk

3 Compliance Areas for Self-Funded Employers (Video)

self-funded employer compliance

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“There are three primary areas that employers should keep in mind when thinking about compliance for their health plan,” said Brad Roehrenbeck, General Counsel and VP of Legal Services and Compliance at MedCost.

1. Employment Retirement Income Security Act 

“The first of those is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which governs employer-sponsored benefit plans. ERISA was a law created in the early 1970s that has been applied to basically set the rules for how an employer that creates their own health plan should do that.”

Michael Berwanger, Director of Quality Management and Compliance, agreed. “ERISA requires several things of plan sponsors and plan administrators. One of those things is to provide notices of what benefits are available to employees. The types of notices that you might expect with the summary plan document are any tax filing notices you might need to be aware of.

self-funded employer compliance“This is to make employees aware of the rights available to them under ERISA. And with the right service provider, employers can feel confident knowing they’re distributing the right notices in the right formats.

2. HIPAA Compliance

“The second area of compliance for self-funded employers is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA requires that you safeguard patient data. Employers might find themselves subject to certain HIPAA rules; and with the right service provider, it could be relatively easy to navigate those waters.”

Keeping track of privacy obligations with documents that contain patient information is very important, said Brad Roehrenbeck. “Another thing that HIPAA requires is that anyone who handles that information, particularly if it’s electronic, must keep it secure. That basically means that you have to have systems in place that control who has access to that type of information, if you’re keeping it on your systems.

“HR directors want to make sure that they work with their IT departments to look at what kind of controls are in place, who has access to any folders where patient data is maintained, or anything else in relation to running the health plan. The HR department keeps that sensitive member information for the plan.

3. Internal Revenue Service Compliance

“The third primary area of the law that impacts health plans is tax laws. Like other types of benefit plans, health plans come with a tax benefit to both employees and employers. As dollars go in to support the plan, those dollars are provided on a tax-free basis.”

self-funded employer compliance“There are certainly tax advantages when you’re considering self-funding your health plan,” Michael Berwanger said. “To take advantage of those, you need to be aware of your compliance obligations -things like making sure you’re not discriminating unfairly in favor of your highly compensated employees.”

“There’s one other area of the tax laws that actually provides some additional benefit to employers and employees, and that is this concept of a Health Savings Account (HSA). Health savings accounts are a great vehicle under the tax laws where employees can set aside dollars and employers can contribute dollars on a tax-free basis. Those monies can be used toward deductibles and the payment of claims. Employees can keep that money for the rest of their lives or until such time as they need to use that for their medical expenses.

HSAs are a great asset for employees and a great savings vehicle. More importantly, it’s a great avenue for employers to engage with participants in the health plans to be conscious of where their health plan dollars are spent and to use them in a way that not only promotes their own health, but also the financial stability and viability and strength of both their dollars and the health plan dollars,” Mr. Roehrenbeck said.

self-funded employer compliance“As the markets continue to move towards a consumer-driven economy, it’s important for employees to be mindful of their options and how to best take advantage of the benefits available through their employers,” Mr. Berwanger noted.

“We find ourselves in a challenging environment. It’s important to be able to offer great incentives and great packages to employees. A self-funded health plan is a great opportunity to be able to do that.

“The risk can be worth the reward. Managing those compliance obligations isn’t as complicated as you might think, once you have a good trusted advisor to help you navigate that.”MedCost

(This post is a transcript from the video, “3 Compliance Areas for Self-Funded Employers.”)