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

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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

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  • 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

The 3 Keys of Stop Loss Insurance (Video)

stop loss carriers

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“Stop loss carriers are definitely not the same,” said Jeff Thornburg, Senior Manager for MedCost Underwriting. “Stop loss insurance should not be treated as a commodity. Price is important. It should be considered. But the quality of the carrier and their policy are actually more important than the price.

“As long as you are getting a good price, you want to drill down into the policy. The first key is:

1. Be sure your policy is going to mirror, or virtually mirror, stop loss carrieryour plan document, to avoid any gaps in coverage.

“When there’s a gap, there’s a denial. You might as well consider denied claims as additional premium. So if you bought the cheaper policy that had more exclusions, and you had a denial, you quite possibly ended up paying more than if you had just bought good quality stop loss from a good quality carrier.”

Senior Underwriter Jeff Woodburn explains the second key: look for these qualities to choose the best carrier.

2. What differentiates the good stop loss carriers from inferior ones?

             *Financial stability
             *The ability to be efficient in paying claims
              *Ease of doing business

“For example, a premature baby incurs a tremendous amount of expense,” said Mr. Woodburn, with over 10 years in the industry. “As you know, that is a totally unexpected expense. But when these unexpected events occur, that is when your stop loss insurance kicks in to cover expenses that exceed a certain threshold. This threshold is predetermined when we’re putting the health plan together for a prospective group.”

Mr. Thornburg has seen how important the third key is from his 28 years handling stop loss insurance.

3. Choose your benefits administrator wisely.

“As a self-funded employer, you’re going to have the same claims, regardless of which stop loss carrier you choose. Your claims are going to happen whether you are with Benefits Administrator A, B or C.

“In evaluating different benefits administrators, it’s important to nail down who is going to manage those claims the best. To limit the liability of the employer while still giving good service and excellent benefits to the employees.

“This is what it comes down to at the end of the day. Who is going to best manage your claims?”MedCost

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How to Save on Employer Health Plans


Stop Loss Insurance Protects Self-Funded Plans from Large Claims

stop loss insurance

As the cost of health care continues to rise, many businesses are exploring self-funded health plans as a way to gain control of costs. Employers who designate funds to pay their companies’ health claims buy stop loss insurance to protect assets in the event of catastrophic claims.

 MedCost is offering a free white paper, explaining how stop loss insurance works. Here is an excerpt describing how employers can maximize benefits while minimizing risk:


TWO TYPES OF STOP LOSS COVERAGE

Specific (or individual) stop loss insurance limits the self-funded employer’s liability to a predetermined dollar amount (specific deductible) for each employee covered under the health plan. The specific deductible per employee is determined by group size and risk tolerance.  Stop Loss Insurance

Aggregate stop loss insurance limits the self-funded employer’s overall liability. Maximum liability is determined by projecting expected claims plus a margin (typically 25%). If paid claims exceed 125%, the stop loss carrier reimburses the amount above the maximum liability. Individual claims that exceed the specific deductible do not accumulate toward the aggregate. Only claims up to the specific deductible apply to the aggregate deductible.

stop loss insurance

The Stop Loss Coverage white paper answers key questions on how to choose the best stop loss partner, strategies for rewards versus risk, contracts and more. For a free copy of the stop loss white paper:

Download It Now.