Issue Brief

No. 840

Self-Insurance and the Potential Effects of Health Reform on the Small-Group Market
December 21, 2010


Kathryn Linehan


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as amended by the Health Care Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 makes landmark changes to health insurance markets. Individual and small-group insurance plans and markets will see the biggest changes, but PPACA also affects large employer and self-insured plans by imposing rules for benefit design and health plan practices. Over half of workers—most often those in very large firms—are covered by self-insured health plans in which employers (or employee groups) bear all or some of the risk of providing insurance coverage to a defined population of workers and their dependents. As PPACA provisions become effective, some have argued that smaller firms that offer insurance may opt to self-insure their health benefits because of new small-group market rules. Such a shift could affect risk pooling in the small-group market. This paper examines the definition and prevalence of self-insured health plans, the application of PPACA provisions to these plans, and the possible effects on the broader health insurance market, should many more employers decide to self-insure.

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