Risk

The chance or possibility of loss. For example, physicians may be held at risk if hospitalization rates exceed agreed upon thresholds. Potential financial liability, particularly with respect to who or what is legally responsible for that liability. With insurance, risk is shared by the patient and insurance company but the company’s risk is limited by the policy’s dollar limitations. In HMO’s, the patient is at risk only for copayments and the cost of non-covered services. The HMO, however, with its income fixed, is at risk for whatever volume of care is entailed, however costly it turns out to be. Providers may also bear risk if they are paid a fixed amount (capitation) by the HMO. The sharing of risk is often employed as a utilization control mechanism within the HMO setting. Risk is also defined in insurance terms as the possibility of loss associated with a given population.