04/06/2012 03:08 pm ET

Small Business Makes A Risky Bet On Health Care

SouthCoast Medical Group had long provided health insurance to its employees the conventional way, paying premiums to an insurance company that covered medical claims. Then in January 2011 the 65-doctor practice with offices in and around Savannah, Ga., opted to take on more of the risk itself.

SouthCoast thought it could save money by self-insuring, a strategy typically used by much larger companies. Today it pays directly for the medical care of the 280 staffers and family members on its plan, setting aside the cash it would have spent on premiums to cover claims and paying an administrator to process them. To limit its risk, the group also purchased “stop-loss” insurance that would kick in after any individual’s medical bills exceeded $100,000.

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