Are you ready for self-funding? Three tools to help you decide

Are you ready for a self-funded health plan? Self-funding and other alternative funding options may seem risky to many HR professionals. Continue reading for three tools to help you decide if you’re ready to switch.

When your health plan is fully insured, it’s easy for your finance department to budget for the cost — you just pass on the health insurer’s annual renewal premium amount to them and that becomes the annual budget number. But you and your broker may have come to suspect that you are leaving money on the table by continuing on a fully insured basis, and you may want to test the self-funded waters.

By now, you may already know there are significant benefits to self-funding, but actually making the switch is a scary prospect for HR directors.

Before you can transition to a self-funded plan, you need to be financially stable and willing to take a bit of a risk. As a safeguard, you also need to familiarize yourself with the two forms of stop-loss insurance. One caps the impact on any one covered member’s claims (individual or specific stop loss), and the other caps your total annual claim liability (aggregate stop loss). Your broker can guide you on which stop loss levels and which stop-loss coverage periods are right for your population when transitioning from fully insured to self-funding.

Beyond these stop-loss safeguards, size will dictate how you pay. If you have fewer than 100 covered employees, you may be able to pay the same amount monthly, just as you do with your fully insured premium. This monthly payment equals projected claims plus an aggregate margin, a monthly administration fee and the stop loss charge. This eliminates unpredictable monthly payments for a small self-funded group.

However, for larger groups of over 100 employees, moving to self-funding will mean paying claims as they are processed (which means uneven claim payments), plus stop loss and administration.

To help you determine if you’re ready for self-funding, you may want to analyze your plan in a few different ways.

1. Look back: A look back analysis is just what it sounds like — a view of how your plan would have performed over the last couple years had you been self-funded, compared to how it did perform under a fully insured model. This should be an easy enough task for your broker to take on, especially if they have sought out self-funded quotes from claim administrators and stop-loss carriers on your behalf. In addition, they should know what your actual claims costs were. The result is that you’ll know whether you would have saved money or not.

2. Look forward: You may already know what your upcoming fully insured renewal looks like. But even if you don’t have hard numbers yet, you can work with your broker to determine a strong estimate of what your proposed premiums will be. Then, your broker should get a self-funded quote, which includes the expected and maximum claims, plus the administrative fees and stop-loss premiums. This is your expected self-funded costs for the upcoming policy period. Compare that estimate to your fully insured renewal costs. (Make sure the self-funded costs are on the same “incurred claims with runout” basis that the fully insured costs would be, for a fair apples-to-apples comparison.)
3. Probability. While the “look forward” analysis compares your fully insured costs to your expected self-funded costs, it is based on “expected” claims. The risky part of self-funding is that your actual claims will not ultimately materialize exactly as expected. There are some more sophisticated tools that combine group-specific data (such as your claims history, demographics and the proposed fixed costs) with a fairly large actuarial database to come up with thousands of possible outcomes.

By charting all of these outcomes, you can produce likelihood percentages of where your actual claims will come in at — versus the “expected” level, and versus the fully insured renewal rate. Not all brokers have this tool on hand, and as a result, there may be a cost associated with producing one. The output from this tool may appeal to your colleagues in the finance department.

Other considerations

During your analysis, you may want to set your self-funded policy year liability based on incurred claims (plus fixed costs), even though your actual paid claims within that policy year may be less due to the lag between when provider services occur and when you actually fund them. The lag is a cash-flow advantage but it does not represent a reduced claim liability.

Finally, don’t lose sight of the cost of high claimants, an important part of planning if you choose the self-funding route. Will your past high claimants continue into your renewal period? Are you aware of new high claimants on the horizon? Stop-loss carriers generally insure only “unknown risks,” not “known risks.” If a plan member has an expensive chronic condition, such as kidney failure, a stop loss carrier may “laser” that individual and set a higher individual stop-loss threshold. It’s important that you know what’s excluded and factor in any uncovered catastrophic claimants into your analysis.

In the end, it may turn out that self-funding is not a good fit, or possibly that this year is just not the year for it. But whether it is, or it isn’t, it is comforting to know that you’ve done your due diligence and have documentation supporting the decision you’ve reached.

SOURCE: DePaola, Raymond (5 October 2018) "Are you ready for self-funding? Three tools to help you decide" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from

The ACA’s uncertain lifespan following the Cadillac Tax delay

Are you questioning how the ACA will continue with the delay of the Cadillac Tax? Neil Model gives a breakdown of the "what-ifs" scenarios.

Original Post from on July 26, 2016.

Since the delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “Cadillac Tax” provision, which was passed on December 18, 2015, some may be wondering how the ACA will be funded until 2020. I do not believe we have been given the answer.

The Cadillac Tax was to be imposed as a means of funding the ACA by penalizing employers for offering high-cost employer sponsored health insurance plans to employees. One must take into consideration that with continued double-digit healthcare premium increases, the so-called “high cost” plans are not so far-fetched for many more employer sponsored plans in the future. The Cadillac tax was also to double as an incentive for plan sponsors to look at less expensive plan alternatives by the time the tax would be imposed, which is now 2020.

The tax, were it not delayed, would have assessed a penalty of 40 percent for plans costing an employee more than $10,200 annually, and family plans costing an employee $27,500 annually. I have little doubt that the craftsman of the ACA actuarially assumed there would be more employers subject to penalties in future years, despite most efforts to curb premiums.

But because the tax has been delayed, questions about how the ACA will be funded until 2020 have arisen. While still some plan sponsors speculate about whether the ACA will ultimately be repealed, others are still preparing for 2020 by attempting to provide affordable plan options for their employees. This is and will become increasingly more difficult due to spiraling health care costs and corresponding premiums. I have heard it asked many times: “How much more can I impose on my employees?” Add to that concern the even greater Rx inflation due to new and very expensive drugs coming to market for Hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis and cholesterol.

Here are some of the important things to be aware of regarding changes to the Affordable Care Act in 2016....

Though there have been no definitive plans announced to supplement the funding that would have resulted from the Cadillac Tax, other taxes and fees have been responsible for the partial funding of health care reform, some paid by individuals, others paid by employers, including numerous taxes on medical device manufacturers, indoor tanning services, charitable hospitals that fail to comply with Obamacare requirements, brand name drugs and health insurers. Other fundraising for the ACA comes through the elimination of tax deductions for certain drug coverage and tax increases for those with a certain income threshold.

Since the ACA’s emergence, we have read about failed state exchanges, bankrupt cooperatives, and the significant losses the major insurance carriers have incurred participating in the federal exchanges. We have also seen the failure of the government to pay the subsidies to insurance carriers in the timely fashion promised and expected. With the various delays and elimination of ACA funding clauses, we all must wonder where the money to pay for ACA will ultimately come from. Does everyone have a mirror?

According to an article by Reuters with information from the Congressional Budget Office, U.S. taxpayers will ultimately be responsible for $660 billion this year alone as a subsidy to those receiving health insurance under the age of 65. Those figures are expected to rise to $1.1 trillion over the next decade.

The burden will not only fall on the backs of the consumer, but on employers that want to help lift the burden of the high cost of health care. And, providing major medical insurance might not be enough in today’s environment. Ultimately, it will come down to employers educating themselves on the most effective strategies and seeking the guidance from benefits brokers to come up with creative, alternative solutions that will make it easier for employees to live healthy lives.

As the lifespan of the ACA remains undetermined, employers need to educate and prepare as best as possible. Uncertainty, especially with the election around the corner, will be a key theme the rest of this year, particularly in the health care realm.

So, the question remains: Will the ACA keep fighting the good fight going forward, or will it crumble under pressure?