One of the upsides of health insurance plans for small businesses is the variety of options available to business owners. While most people are familiar with HMOs (health maintenance organizations) and PPOs (preferred provider organizations), few are knowledgeable about other options that are out there, such as self-funded health insurance programs.

In addition to point of service (POS) plans and exclusive provider organizations (EPOs), for example, there are also HSA-eligible plans. These are typically PPO plans but with higher deductibles, and are designed especially for use with Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs.

This is why you may want to consider when shopping for health insurance plans for small businesses, is a self-funded health insurance plan.


An Overview Of Self-Funded Health Insurance Plans For Small Businesses a green piece of paper with a ripped piece of white piece of paper on it that says "self funded health insurance"

So, a fair question to ask is, “What is a self-funded health insurance plan?”

As might be apparent from its name, a self-funded plan is essentially one in which an employer, not an insurance company, funds the plan’s health benefits. 

Also known as a “self-insured” plan, a suitable definition is provided by HealthCare.gov,

“Type of plan usually present in larger companies where the employer itself collects premiums from enrollees and takes on the responsibility of paying employees’ and dependents’ medical claims. These employers can contract for insurance services such as enrollment, claims processing, and provider networks with a third party administrator, or they can be self-administered.”

Essentially, a self-funded, or self-insured plan is a viable option for lowering a company’s health insurance costs. 

As one source points out, self-funded plans can be more flexible than traditional, fully insured plans. They’re also subject to less regulation and offer a company the opportunity to customize their health care plan to meet their unique business needs.

And because owners are paying only for the health care costs of their own employees, there may be money left over at the end of the year that can go toward other business needs.

However, like any other type of health insurance plan option, there are both upsides and downsides.


Self-funded health insurance plans have gained popularity among small businesses as an alternative to traditional fully insured plans. These plans involve the employer assuming the financial risk of providing healthcare coverage to their employees.

While self-funding can offer several benefits, it also comes with potential drawbacks that need to be carefully considered. Here is a brief overview of the pros and cons of self-funded health insurance plans for small businesses.

Advantages Of Self-Funded Health Insurance Plans

Cost Savings:

  • Employers can potentially save money through self-funding, as they have more control over plan design and can avoid paying premiums to insurance carriers.

Small business owners who implement cost-containment strategies such as wellness programs and negotiated provider discounts can experience significant cost savings, for example.

Flexibility in Plan Design:

  • Self-funding allows employers to customize their health insurance plans according to their employees’ needs and company culture.

A company can tailor its coverage to include specific benefits like mental health services, alternative therapies, or fertility treatments based on employee preferences and demands.

Cash Flow Management:

  • Self-funded plans enable employers to retain cash reserves by paying claims as they occur, rather than paying fixed premiums in advance.

A small business with seasonal fluctuations in revenue can better manage cash flow during slower months by adjusting claim payments accordingly.

Transparency and Data Access:

  • Employers gain access to detailed claims data, which can help identify cost drivers and implement targeted cost-saving measures.

Owners, or their HR managers, can analyze claims data to identify patterns and implement wellness initiatives, leading to reduced healthcare costs over time.


Cons of Self-Funded Health Insurance Plans:

Financial Risk:

  • Employers assume the risk of paying for all employee healthcare claims, which can be unpredictable and potentially costly.

Companies that experience a sudden increase in high-cost medical procedures or a significant number of catastrophic claims could face financial strain.

Administrative Burden:

  • Self-funded plans require more administrative tasks, such as claims processing, provider negotiations, and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Not every small business has an HR manager and often lack the necessary resources or expertise to manage the administrative workload associated with self-funded plans.

Limited Market Access:

  • Smaller businesses may face challenges in obtaining favorable rates and access to a broad network of healthcare providers, as self-funding is more commonly associated with larger employers.

A small company operating in a rural area with limited healthcare options, for example, may find it difficult to establish a comprehensive network for its self-funded plan.

Stop-Loss Insurance Costs:

  • Employers often purchase stop-loss insurance to mitigate the financial risk associated with self-funding, which can add an additional layer of expense.

An owner may need to evaluate the costs of stop-loss insurance premiums, deductibles, and coverage limits when considering self-funded plans.

In summary, a self-funded health insurance plan can offer several advantages for small businesses, including potential cost savings, plan customization, cash flow management, and access to claims data. 

However, it can also come with risks, such as financial uncertainty, administrative burden, limited market access, and additional expenses associated with stop-loss insurance. Consequently, it is crucial for small business owners to carefully evaluate these benefits and disadvantages before deciding on self-funding.

Consulting with insurance brokers or experts when considering your financial capabilities, employee needs, and risk tolerance, can provide valuable guidance in navigating the complexities of self-funded health insurance plans.


Need Help Finding A Health Insurance Plan For Your Business? a notebook with board game wooden letters that spell out "health insurance"

J.C. Lewis Insurance has been a local, family-owned firm based in Sonoma County since 1979, and our team of expert brokers specializes in health insurance plans for small businesses.

In addition, we provide small business dental and vision plans, all from only the leading health insurance carriers that are licensed to do business in California.

In addition to being experienced, professional brokers, we are licensed and certified by each of these insurance carriers to offer coverage to individuals, families, and small group employers in addition to Medicare supplemental and prescription drug plans for seniors.

When you’re shopping for vision, dental, or health insurance for your employees, you probably have several questions and concerns.

At J.C. Lewis Insurance Services we welcome your questions about small business health insurance plans, and you can be confident that we will help you find the right solution.