Definitions Of Health Insurance Terms
ASO (Administrative Services Only) – An arrangement in which an employer hires a third party to deliver administrative services to the employer such as claims processing and billing; the employer bears the risk for claims. This is common in self-insured health care plans.
Coinsurance – A form of medical cost sharing in a health insurance plan that requires an insured person to pay a stated percentage of medical expenses after the deductible amount, if any, was paid. Once any deductible amount and coinsurance are paid, the insurer is responsible for the rest of the reimbursement for covered benefits up to allowed charges: the individual could also be responsible for any charges in excess of what the insurer determines to be “usual, customary and reasonable”. Coinsurance rates may differ if services are received from an approved provider (i.e., a provider with whom the insurer has a contract or an agreement specifying payment levels and other contract requirements) or if received by providers not on the approved list. In addition to overall coinsurance rates, rates may also differ for different types of services.
Copayment – A form of medical cost sharing in a health insurance plan that requires an insured person to pay a fixed dollar amount when a medical service is received. The insurer is responsible for the rest of the reimbursement. There may be separate copayments for different services. Some plans require that a deductible first be met for some specific services before a copayment applies.
Deductible – A fixed dollar amount during the benefit period – usually a year – that an
insured person pays before the insurer starts to make payments for covered medical services. Plans may have both per individual and family deductibles. Some plans may have separate deductibles for specific services. For example, a plan may have a hospitalization deductible per admission. Deductibles may differ if services are received from an approved provider or if received from providers not on the approved list.
Flexible spending accounts or arrangements (FSA) – Accounts offered and administered by employers that provide a way for employees to set aside, out of their paycheck, pretax dollars to pay for the employee’s share of insurance premiums or medical expenses not covered by the employer’s health plan. The employer may also make contributions to a FSA. Typically, benefits or cash must be used within the given benefit year or the employee loses the money. Flexible spending accounts can also be provided to cover childcare expenses, but those accounts must be established separately from medical FSAs.
Flexible benefits plan (Cafeteria plan) (IRS 125 Plan) – A benefit program under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code that offers employees a choice between permissible taxable benefits, including cash, and nontaxable benefits such as life and health insurance, vacations, retirement plans and child care. Although a common core of benefits may be required, the employee can determine how his or her remaining benefit dollars are to be allocated for each type of benefit from the total amount promised by the employer. Sometimes employee contributions may be made for additional coverage.
Fully insured plan – A plan where the employer contracts with another organization to assume financial responsibility for the enrollees’ medical claims and for all incurred administrative costs.
Gatekeeper – Under some health insurance arrangements, a gatekeeper is responsible for the administration of the patient’s treatment; the gatekeeper coordinates and authorizes all medical services, laboratory studies, specialty referrals and hospitalizations.
Maximum out-of-pocket expense – The maximum dollar amount a group member is required to pay out of pocket during a year. Until this maximum is met, the plan and group member shares in the cost of covered expenses. After the maximum is reached, the insurance carrier pays all covered expenses, often up to a lifetime maximum. (See previous definition.)
Medical savings accounts (MSA) – Savings accounts designated for out-of-pocket medical expenses. In an MSA, employers and individuals are allowed to contribute to a savings account on a pre-tax basis and carry over the unused funds at the end of the year. One major difference between a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and a Medical Savings Account (MSA) is the ability under an MSA to carry over the unused funds for use in a future year, instead of losing unused funds at the end of the year. Most MSAs allow unused balances and earnings to accumulate. Unlike FSAs, most MSAs are combined with a high deductible or catastrophic health insurance plan.
Minimum premium plan (MPP) – A plan where the employer and the insurer agree that the employer will be responsible for paying all claims up to an agreed-upon aggregate level, with the insurer responsible for the excess. The insurer usually is also responsible for processing claims and administrative services.
Premium – Agreed upon fees paid for coverage of medical benefits for a defined benefit period. Premiums can be paid by employers, unions, employees, or shared by both the insured individual and the plan sponsor.
Premium equivalent – For self-insured plans, the cost per covered employee, or the amount the firm would expect to reflect the cost of claims paid, administrative costs, and stop-loss premiums.
Primary care physician (PCP) – A physician who serves as a group member’s primary contact within the health plan. In a managed care plan, the primary care physician provides basic medical services, coordinates and, if required by the plan, authorizes referrals to specialists and hospitals.
Reinsurance – The acceptance by one or more insurers, called reinsurers or assuming companies, of a portion of the risk underwritten by another insurer that has contracted with an employer for the entire coverage.
Self-insured plan – A plan offered by employers who directly assume the major cost of health insurance for their employees. Some self-insured plans bear the entire risk. Other self-insured employers insure against large claims by purchasing stop-loss coverage. Some self-insured employers contract with insurance carriers or third party administrators for claims processing and other administrative services; other self-insured plans are self-administered. Minimum Premium Plans (MPP) are included in the self-insured health plan category. All types of plans (Conventional Indemnity, PPO, EPO, HMO, POS, and PHOs) can be financed on a self-insured basis. Employers may offer both self-insured and fully insured plans to their employees.
Stop-loss coverage – A form of reinsurance for self-insured employers that limits the amount the employers will have to pay for each person’s health care (individual limit) or for the total expenses of the employer (group limit).
Third party administrator (TPA) – An individual or firm hired by an employer to handle claims processing, pay providers, and manage other functions related to the operation of health insurance. The TPA is not the policyholder or the insurer.
|Usual, customary, and reasonable (UCR) charges – Conventional indemnity plans operate based on usual, customary, and reasonable (UCR) charges. UCR charges mean that the charge is the provider’s usual fee for a service that does not exceed the customary fee in that geographic area, and is reasonable based on the circumstances. Instead of UCR charges, PPO plans often operate based on a negotiated (fixed) schedule of fees that recognize charges for covered services up to a negotiated fixed dollar amount.|