The Advantages of Level Funded Plans for Businesses: Why You Should Consider Them

Looking for a new way to manage healthcare costs? Learn the benefits of level funding, how it works and why companies should consider switching to this type of health plan.

A level-funded health insurance plan lets businesses pay a set, predictable monthly amount for employee healthcare costs. These plans can offer many advantages, like savings on premiums and potential refunds if claims are lower than expected. As a business owner, you want to provide your employees with the best benefits while controlling costs. With a level-funded plan, you could be doing just that. Let’s explore this topic more in-depth and see if it fits your business.

Benefits of Level Funded Plans

Level-funded plans offer several benefits to employers and employees. Here are the key benefits of level-funded plans:

Cost Savings

First up, cost savings. With level-funded plans, you can enjoy the predictability of monthly premium costs, which can help with budgeting efforts. Additionally, if your claims experience is lower than expected, you may be eligible for refunds on your premiums. Plus, since level-funded plans are considered self-insured, they often come with lower premium taxes than fully insured plans.

Customization:

Customization is another significant benefit of level-funded plans. These plans offer the ability to tailor the plan design to fit the needs of your employees, which means you can offer a more comprehensive and personalized health insurance plan. Additionally, you’ll have more flexibility in choosing healthcare providers, so your employees can get the care they need from their preferred providers.

Transparency:

You’ll receive clear and concise billing statements and have access to detailed claims data. This lets you see exactly where your healthcare dollars are going and make informed decisions about plan designs.

Risk Management:

When it comes to risk management, level funded plans offer a unique advantage with their stop-loss insurance. This means that your company won’t be on the hook for more than the established rates at the start of the plan year, even in the face of costly and unexpected claims. Essentially, you can rest easy knowing that your financial exposure is capped, while still offering your employees comprehensive coverage. 

Comparison to Traditional Fully Funded Plans

Level-funded and traditional fully-funded plans are two types of employer-sponsored health insurance options. While both offer health coverage to employees, there are some key differences between the two:

Monthly Premiums

Level-funded plans are a type of health insurance plan that offer lower premiums and more predictable costs compared to traditional fully funded plans. With level-funded plans, the monthly premiums are consistent throughout the year, making budgeting easier for businesses.

On the other hand, with a traditional fully funded plan, your premiums can vary based on factors like your age, health status, and claims history. 

Claims Experience

One key difference between level-funded and traditional fully funded plans is how they handle claims experience. With level-funded plans, businesses typically share the risk with the insurance carrier. If claims are lower than expected, the company receives a portion of the surplus. Conversely, the insurance carrier covers the excess costs if claims exceed expected.

On the other hand, traditional fully funded plans are fully funded by the insurance carrier. Therefore, the carrier assumes all of the risk associated with claims experience.

Employee Benefits

Employee benefits are an important aspect of any job, and both level-funded and traditional fully funded plans offer some pretty great perks. Doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs are all included in these two types of plans and both utilize the same large PPO network. However, level-funded plans have a bit of an edge in terms of plan design options.

With level-funded plans, businesses have more flexibility to customize their plan design to meet the specific needs of their employees. This can include adjusting the deductible, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums. And with a wider variety of plan designs to choose from, it’s easier to find a plan that works perfectly for your employees. On the other hand, traditional fully funded plans often have a set plan design that cannot be customized. However, they may offer a more comprehensive network of providers for employees.

Implementation and Administration

A few key factors are to consider when implementing and administering level-funded plans.

Plan Administration

The first thing to remember is that the responsibility for plan administration falls on the employer. This means it will be up to the employer to ensure that all plan aspects are appropriately implemented and maintained.

In addition to this, certain documents will be required to administer the plan properly. These may include summary plan descriptions, enrollment forms, and other related documents.

Provider Networks

Another critical aspect of implementing and administering a level-funded plan is determining which provider network to use. There are typically three different types of networks to choose from: preferred provider organizations (PPOs), health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and exclusive provider organizations (EPOs).

PPOs generally offer the greatest flexibility regarding provider choice but may also be more expensive. On the other hand, HMOs are typically more restrictive regarding provider choice but may be less expensive overall. EPOs are similar to PPOs but with a more limited network of providers.

Considerations for Small and Mid-Size Businesses

Level-funded plans can be an excellent option for small and mid-size businesses seeking affordable, flexible healthcare solutions. By considering these key factors, small and mid-size business owners can make informed decisions about the right plan for their employees.

Potential for Cost Savings

One of the biggest advantages of level-funded plans is the potential for cost savings. Because these plans are partially self-funded, premiums tend to be lower than traditional fully insured plans. Additionally, because these plans are designed for small and mid-size businesses with limited claims experience, they offer greater predictability of costs.

Flexibility

Level-funded plans also offer greater flexibility when planning design and health provider options. Small & mid-size businesses can often customize their plans to meet the specific needs of their employees and choose from a wide range of health providers to ensure that their employees have access to the care they need.

Risk Management

Another thing you may want to keep in mind when adopting this approach is the importance of risk management. The last thing you want is to be hit with a huge claim that throws your budget out of whack. That’s where stop-loss insurance comes into play. This type of coverage acts as a safety net, protecting you from catastrophic claims that can put you in a financial bind. With the proper risk management in place, level funded plans can be a smart way to keep your healthcare costs under control.

Advantages for Large Businesses

Level-funded plans can be attractive for large businesses looking to customize their benefits offerings, reduce costs, and provide stable healthcare coverage for their employees.

Plan Customization

Level-funded plans can be tailored to meet the specific needs of individual employees. This allows companies to offer more personalized benefits packages, which can help attract and retain top talent. Additionally, level-funded plans often provide greater network flexibility, allowing companies to choose from a wide range of providers to ensure their employees have access to the care they need.

Predictability

One of the most significant advantages of level-funded plans is their predictability. Because monthly premiums are stable, companies can more accurately forecast their healthcare costs and budget accordingly. Furthermore, some level-funded plans offer claims experience refunds, which means that if a company’s claims experience is better than anticipated, they may receive a portion of their premiums back.

Cost Savings

Level-funded plans can offer significant cost savings compared to traditional fully insured plans. For example, because level-funded plans are partially self-insured, companies may be able to avoid paying certain premium taxes. Additionally, self-insuring for catastrophic claims can be less expensive than purchasing coverage for those claims on the open market.

Common Misconceptions

Level-funded plans are gaining popularity among employers looking for cost-saving health insurance options. However, there are still some common misconceptions that need to be cleared up:

Risk

One of the biggest misconceptions about level-funded plans is that they are too risky because they involve self-insurance. Some people worry that if their employees have high medical claims, they will be responsible for covering those costs.

However, level-funded plans protect against catastrophic claims. If an employee has a major medical event, the stop-loss insurance with level-funded plans will kick in and cover the costs above a certain threshold. This means employers can offer their employees coverage without worrying about being on the hook for exorbitant medical bills.

Plan Design

Another common misconception about level-funded plans is that they don’t allow customization. Some people think that because these plans are pre-packaged, they won’t be able to design a plan that meets their specific needs.

However, level-funded plans offer a lot of flexibility regarding plan design. Employers can choose from several different options to find  a plan that works for their business and their employees. Therefore, working with a knowledgeable broker or consultant is essential to help employers understand the different plan design options. They can explain the pros and cons of different plan designs and help employers choose the options that will work best for their specific situation.

Regulatory Compliance

If you are an employer offering level-funded health insurance plans, knowing the regulatory compliance requirements is important. Two key legislation impacting these plans are the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Under ERISA, employers must provide certain disclosures to plan participants, maintain plan documents, and follow specific fiduciary responsibilities. Failure to comply with ERISA can result in penalties and legal action.

The ACA also imposes specific requirements on level-funded plans, such as providing essential health benefits, offering preventive care services without cost sharing, and complying with the employer-shared responsibility provisions. Employers who fail to comply with the ACA can face significant financial penalties.

Fortunately, resources are available to assist employers in navigating these regulations and ensuring compliance. For example, the Department of Labor guides ERISA compliance, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offer resources on ACA compliance.

In addition, insurance carriers and third-party administrators may offer assistance in understanding and implementing these regulations. By staying up-to-date on regulatory requirements and seeking assistance, employers can ensure that their level-funded plans remain compliant and provide valuable employee benefits.

Case Studies

Small Business Example

Let’s consider the example of a small tech startup called “InnovateTech Solutions.” InnovateTech Solutions has around 30 employees and provides clients with software development and IT consulting services. As a small business, they are looking for a cost-effective health insurance solution for their employees.

InnovateTech Solutions decided to implement a level-funded health insurance plan for their employees. Here’s how they go about it:

  1. Evaluation and Decision-Making: The company’s HR department evaluates different health insurance options. They assess factors such as cost, coverage, a network of healthcare providers, and overall benefits. After considering multiple options, they decide that a level-funded plan aligns well with their requirements.
  2. Customization: InnovateTech Solutions works with an insurance broker to customize the level-funded plan based on their needs. They can choose a plan that best suits their employee demographics and budget.
  3. Risk Assessment: Before implementing the plan, the insurance carrier assesses the company’s employee population to determine the potential risk and claims history. This assessment helps the carrier determine the monthly funding required to cover anticipated claims.

Large Business Example

Consider the example of a large manufacturing company called “Global Manufacturing Corporation.” Global Manufacturing Corporation operates in multiple countries and has thousands of employees. They seek a health insurance solution catering to their diverse workforce while managing costs effectively.

Global Manufacturing Corporation decided to implement a level-funded health insurance plan for their employees. Here are some of the benefits they experience:

  1. Cost Control: Global Manufacturing Corporation can better control healthcare costs than traditional fully insured plans with a level-funded plan. The company pays a fixed monthly premium, which helps them budget more accurately and avoid unexpected premium increases.
  2. Customization and Flexibility: Level-funded plans offer customization options, allowing Global Manufacturing Corporation to tailor the plan design to their needs. They can choose a plan that aligns with their employee demographics and preferences.
  3. Claims Transparency: The insurance carrier reports regular claims to Global Manufacturing Corporation, offering valuable insights into employee healthcare utilization and costs. This data helps the company identify areas to implement cost-saving measures or promote employee wellness programs.

Conclusion

Level-funded plans benefit businesses seeking a more affordable and flexible health insurance plan. By offering the stability of traditional insurance combined with the financial benefits of self-funding, these plans provide a middle ground to help companies save money without sacrificing quality coverage for their employees. Plus, the opportunity for refunds at the end of the year or renewals without rate increases can be a huge advantage for budget-conscious businesses. 

So if you’re a business owner or executive looking for a more innovative way to manage your healthcare costs, considering a level-funded plan for your organization is worth considering.

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About IXSolutions

IXSolutions brings 30 years of experience to the market as Employee Benefit Consultants. We’ve been partnering with Brokers in the industry since the inception of the Affordable Care Act, bringing alternative solutions to our Broker partners.

Today we partner with all types of brokers, whether they are new brokers getting into the business, seasoned brokers getting out of the business, looking to expand and get into new markets, or simply looking for a trusted partner to lean on in the Employee Benefits space.

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