Insights into large claims

This article is part of a series of case studies—real stories of how managed care companies increased profits by using Summit Re’s resources to increase sales, decrease expenses, and manage claims. An insight is the act or result of comprehending the inner nature of things or seeing intuitively (Webster’s dictionary). This is a good description of what takes place in a Summit Re InSight analysis.

We often have a better perspective for viewing this inner nature of a large claim, since we only deal with coverage for large claims. Your staff must spend a majority of their efforts in areas that involve smaller and much more frequent claim events. This case study is an example of how an InSight analysis conducted by Summit Re helped a plan gain a better view of the inner nature of its catastrophic claims.

Situation: An increase in large claims

ABC health plan, located in a large metropolitan area, focuses on Medicaid members, specifically AFDC/TANF eligible members. AFDC/TANF membership is primarily composed of mothers and their children, and the majority of the large claims for this population involve premature infants or other infants with significant problems at birth. For this reason, the large claims from these situations are primarily from inpatient hospital confinements at facilities equipped to treat infants who are severely premature or have other critical problems. ABC health plan was seeing an increase in large claims from this population.

Cause: Reimbursement structure

ABC health plan utilized strong DRG contracts for most facilities in its state. The exception to this was for facilities classified as children’s hospitals. These facilities were considered in a unique category by the state for its Medicaid reimbursement methodology, and the plan was simply following the state’s lead for reimbursement. These types of facilities were paid on a percentage of billed charges determined by the state.

The state’s intention was to recognize these facilities as unique, and the state therefore concluded that the DRG reimbursement was not appropriate given the level and type of services the children’s hospitals were providing. What that meant for ABC health plan was that its most severe and highest cost claims were often being reimbursed at a percentage of billed charges. In this instance, the plan had little ability to contractually modify this reimbursement, although that was certainly an option for the plan to explore.

The reinsurance implication

How did these circumstances translate to the health plan’s needs for catastrophic medical excess reinsurance coverage? The plan had been purchasing coverage with a relatively low average daily maximum limitation for inpatient hospital services because of a mistaken perception that the strong DRG reimbursements at many facilities and deep discounts at children’s facilities were protecting it from all risk except for the exceptionally long hospital stays. In reality, the facilities being reimbursed at a percentage of charges had been rapidly raising their rates and, despite the presence of deep discounts, the plan was experiencing average per-day charges on many large claims well in excess of its average daily maximum limitation for inpatient hospital services. This meant that the plan was absorbing a great deal of variability from large claims due to payments at very high costs per day.


Now that the plan recognized the circumstances under which it was operating for many large claims, it could now consider the options for managing the risk. Re-contracting with children’s hospitals in its service area at more favorable terms would, of course, be a wonderful solution since it could be structured to significantly reduce the plan’s overall risk. In this instance, however, the plan was not in a position to implement such a provider contracting change. This course of action could certainly be considered in the future.

What could be restructured easily was the reinsurance coverage so that it would provide more coverage for high cost days. The best and most immediate solution for this plan was a higher average daily maximum limitation for inpatient hospital services, coupled with a slightly higher deductible. This allowed the plan to exchange reinsurance premium dollars for better reinsurance reimbursement for both long-stay and high cost-per-day hospital risk.

Although these changes may seem obvious to the party reviewing large claims day in and day out, they were not at all intuitive to the plan’s management staff, who had been spending a majority of their time and effort managing the everyday activities and finances of a health plan. It is, in fact, the purpose of the InSight analysis to bring these circumstances to the forefront when they otherwise would remain hidden in the day-to-day activities of the plan.