– April 27, 2010
A Third Party Administrator (TPA) is often the best way to handle claims for an organization. Many self-insured and captives choose to outsource their claims instead of creating their own internal operation (see my prior post of A checklist of the 8 critical issues to be concerned about when self-managing claims). Whether to get expertise in a particular areas, or not wanting to invest in the infrastructure to build a claims department, using a TPA can be a smart business decision. In fact, many insurance companies will outsource some, or all, of their claims for the same reason. Regardless of what type of company you are, choosing the right TPA is imperative. The TPA will become the face of your company for claims and, how well or poorly, they handle claims will be a reflection on your organization.
So what make a good TPA and what should you look for? In order to find out you must conduct a comprehensive due diligence of the TPA you are about to hire. This is especially the case when that TPA will be holding and managing your claim dollars. Besides understanding the financial strength and capabilities of the TPA, it is also important to know whether they will be able to meet your data needs, provide consistent claims handling, and work to lower costs where they can.
While not an exhaustive list by any means, below I address 6 essential elements, and questions, that should be explored as part of any due diligence when selecting a TPA:
- Claims Systems – A strong claims system is an essential tool for any claims organization. Take time to understand the capabilities and limitations of a TPA claims system. Can they provide remote access so you can review your claims online? Do they have a paperless file system? Can they capture information that would be critical to your organization such as specialized loss codes or basic policy information? Do they use any other systems to help lower costs such as litigation management billing software or some unique estimating program?
- Reporting Capabilities – With a good system loss reporting should be easy. Regardless, it is important to understand the types of loss runs and reports that can be provided. How frequent can they be provided? What format will they be provided in? Can you easily request specialized reports, or do they have a system that you can customize reports on your own?
- Litigation Management Program – Litigation management is one of those things that seem to be less emphasized in a lot of organizations. Nonetheless, this is an area that if ignored could result in higher legal costs. Ask if the TPA trains their staff on litigation management cost reduction techniques. How are legal bills reviewed and what kind of program is in place to review counsel performance? Do they have a panel of law firms, and if so how are those firms selected?
- Quality Control and Internal Audit – Consistent handling across multiple claim offices is difficult to accomplish without clear handling best practices and internal controls. Does the TPA internally review their claim handler’s performance? How often are claim files reviewed for good practice compliance internally? What kind of metrics do they use to ensure files are proactively managed and consistent across the board? If they produce an annual internal audit report, ask if you can review it and see how they deal with deficiencies. No operation is perfect, but how well they recognize and address problems can be very telling.
- Subrogation/Salvage Capabilities – Many claims organizations fail to actively push subrogation and salvage opportunities. These areas, when done correctly, can lower claim loss dollars and return money to the coffers. How aggressive is the TPA in driving these key cost savings initiatives? Do they have a separate unit, or are the handlers expected to manage subrogation and salvage? How are they tracking returns? Are their results within industry expectations for a particular line of business?
- Special Investigation Unit and Anti Fraud Initiatives – All TPA’s will tell you they train their staff and actively pursue fraud when identified. This information should be readily available and reviewable. Ask the TPA how many fraud referrals they made to the states for a given line of business. Is the number consistent with the industry expectations on fraud reports? Do they have an SIU onsite or do they use and outside vendor to manage fraud? Have the TPA’s claim handlers received their annual fraud training as required by certain states?
A few other items worth considering would also include:
- Management structure
- Reserve philosophy
- File loads per adjuster
- Financial stability
- Banking arrangements
Hiring a TPA is a critical process that must be reviewed carefully. Take the time to perform a thorough due diligence, or hire an expert to do it for you. Getting a comprehensive analysis will ensure you are choosing the best TPA for your organization.