Healthcare reform requires that companies eliminate annual and lifetime limits on their coverage, a development that may encourage more self-insured employers to buy medical stop-loss insurance to guard against having to pay too much in claims.

Ed Kaplan, national health practice leader at consultancy Segal Co., says companies that are considering buying such coverage should look at the volatility of their healthcare claims over the last three to five years, their cash flow and the amount of reserves they've set aside for healthcare.

Kaplan notes a study that suggests that high-dollar medical claims are increasing as a percentage of companies' total claims, a trend he attributes to improvements in medical technology.

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