Wednesday, May 9, 2012





Stop-Loss Insurance Regulatory Developments Spill Over into the Captive World

The regulation of medical stop-loss insurance has long been on the radar screen of those involved with self-insured group health plans, but more recent developments should rattle the cages of many captive insurance industry service providers as well.

This convergence of interest relates to employee benefit group captives structured for health care risks, which arguably is the fastest growing segment of the alternative risk transfer marketplace.  The reason for this growth, of course, is that small and mid-sized employers are clamoring for solutions to better control the cost of providing quality health benefits for the their workers. 

And taking a longer view, the potential premium volume associated with health care risks could easily eclipse premium volume connected with P&C-related liability if the captive insurance marketplace figures out how to effectively respond to market demands.

But unless smaller and mid-sized employers are able to operate self-insured group health plans, captive insurance solutions are moot.  That’s because individual self-insured employers are the essential “building blocks” for the viable variations of group captive structures.  For these structures, individual employers must obtain separate stop-loss insurance policies, either from a stop-loss carrier or direct from the captive.  If employers cannot access stop-loss policies with appropriate terms, the employee benefit group captive model explodes.

That threat is at our doorstep so it is important that captive insurance industry leaders fully understand what is happening and why.

This blog has been reporting for some time about how stop-loss insurance with lower attachment points has attracted negative attention from state and federal regulators.  Most recently, we commented how developments in California (see previous blog post) portend a new round of attempts to restrict access to stop-loss insurance across the country by smaller employers…again, the key components for group benefit captives.

It is important to note that while SB 1431 in California only applies to stop-loss policies sold to employers with 50 or fewer employers (small group market definition), the Affordable Care Act provides that states may apply to redefine the definition of small group market up to 100 employees in 2014, which California and many other states will most certainly do. 

In addition to regulatory encroachments at the state level, federal regulators are now taking a closer look at stop-loss insurance, which could result in additional restrictions.  This blog will be commenting on these federal developments in more detail soon, so be sure to check back to understand what is happening in Washington, DC.

As an aside, there seems to be confusion about what health care reform (and its potential repeal) means for the captive insurance in a general way so we’ll try to quickly cut through the fog.   The ACA does not directly create nor suppress any captive insurance opportunities but there are some indirect connections.  

Health care reform has had the effect of driving up health insurance premiums, thus prompting more interest in self-insurance and potentially group captives as we have discussed.  There may also be opportunities for captives to provide financial backstops for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as provided for by the ACA.

The potential for increased stop-loss insurance regulation is another indirect effect of the ACA, but it is the most important development to watch.  Most everything else is really just “white noise” with regard to the captive insurance marketplace.

And by the way, the regulatory focus on stop-loss insurance is likely to continue even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the entire health care law this June, so this industry concern has shelf life regardless of the judicial outcome.

So what to do?   In short, pay close attention to these developments and be receptive to opportunities to advocate for the ability of smaller employers to purchase stop-loss insurance without artificial attachment point restrictions and/or other inappropriate regulatory hurdles.

Those opportunities are almost certain to come.




No comments:

Post a Comment