Managing self-insurance costs

A well-designed allocation structure can help hospitals lower self-insurance costs by distributing costs at a departmental or employee level more effectively. This article, authored by Milliman consultant Richard Frese, highlights some features that hospitals should consider when designing and implementing an allocation structure.

Setting Goals
When implementing an allocation, it is first necessary to achieve buy-in from members or departments and to define the goals. Allocations often apportion expected future insurance costs, historical unpaid claim liabilities, and tail liabilities (claims that have occurred but have not yet been reported). The finance managers should establish the goals of the allocation process to ensure program needs are met.

These goals should include ensuring that the allocation system encompasses five key features:
• A loss-control incentive that encourages safety among members
• Stability, with no significant fluctuation in annual contributions and liabilities
• Equity, as reflected in the fair treatment of all members (which does not mean that they all pay the same amount or rate)
• Intelligibility, ensuring the allocation is easily understood and readily accepted by members
• Ease of administration, allowing managers to carry out the allocation without difficulty….

Designing a Basic Structure
Allocations commonly are built on exposure, losses, or a blend of the two. Exposure often is defined as “bed equivalents” for professional liability and as payroll for workers’ compensation. Proper weights (i.e., conversion factors) translate – for example – occupied beds, outpatient surgeries, emergency department visits, and physicians into bed – equivalents. Different risk classes in payroll, such as nurses and clerical workers, also should be adjusted for. An allocation based purely on exposure is easily administered and may help keep the allocation amounts smoother over time.

An allocation using losses will encourage members to minimize losses, but may be more of a challenge to administer and design for several reasons.