Health Reform WK-EDGE Self-insured health plans have increased among small and midsized firms
Monday, August 8, 2016

Self-insured health plans have increased among small and midsized firms

By Lauren Bikoff

The share of both private-sector self-insured health plans and number of covered workers in self-insured health plans have increased among small- and midsized firms since enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), according to recent research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

While the data do not demonstrate that ACA is conclusively the cause of the growth in self-insured plans, they "are consistent with the prediction that the ACA would cause more small- and midsized employers to adopt self-insured plans," said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program.

Since the passage of the ACA, some commentators have speculated that an increasing number of small and midsized employers would convert their health plans from fully insured to self-insured plans. The rationale has appeared to be that several of the key ACA components—creditable coverage, affordability, essential benefits, and various taxes and fees—would drive up the cost of health coverage, thus possibly making self-insurance (which is viewed by many as generally less expensive than fully-insured alternatives) a more attractive option for many employers.

The report found the following:

  • The percentage of private-sector establishments offering health plans at least one of which is self-insured has increased from 28.5 percent in 1996 to 39 percent in 2015 (36.8 percent increase).
  • Between 2013 and 2015, the percentages of establishments offering health plans with at least one self-insured plan has increased for midsized establishments from 25.3 percent to 30.1 percent (19 percent increase); for small establishments from 13.3 percent to 14.2 percent (7 percent increase); and has decreased from 83.9 percent to 80.4 percent for large establishments (4 percent decrease).
  • Similarly, the percentage of health-plan-covered workers enrolled in self-insured health plans has increased from 58.2 percent to 60 percent (3 percent increase) from 2013 to 2015. The largest increases in self-insured plan coverage among covered workers have occurred in establishments with 25 to 99 employees and with 100 to 999 employees.

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