While the Governor’s Mansion in Pennsylvania is currently under the control of the Republicans. I know the state’s Insurance Department is relatively apolitical. That’s why this September statement by Pennsylvania Commissioner Consedine before the U.S. House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health is quite telling.
In it, Mr. Consedine describes how the Keystone state is encountering difficulties implementing an health insurance exchange. As readers will recall, exchanges are a key feature of the Affordable Care Act, because they’ll provide an online market that will enable individuals to obtain coverage.
According to Mr Consedine, CMS is failing to support a good law with the many regulatory details that turn a vague idea into a functioning reality. These failings include:
1. “Interim,” not “final” rules on eligibility, tax credit calculations, cost sharing and the role of brokers
2. Little formal guidance on the determination of the essential health benefit.
3. Delays in issuance of regulations on how states and Uncle Sam will split or mutually indemnify the myriad costs of the exchange and the Federal Data Hub.
Since the passage of health reform (Affordable Care Act), many have wondered what would be covered in the benefits offered through the State Exchanges. We have been reassured that the benefits that are “essential” would be comprehensive yet affordable. But essential to whom? What is an essential benefit and who gets to decide? Tough questions. No easy answers.
Last week HHS released a bulletin punting part of the issue to the States. States will have more “flexibility” to determine what is in the essential benefit package. Of course, not complete flexibility. These benefit plans MUST include, at least, the ten categories of benefits that are defined in the law. Those categories include:
Section 1302(b)(1) provides that EHB include items and services within the following 10 benefit categories: (1) ambulatory patient services, (2) emergency services (3) hospitalization, (4) maternity and newborn care, (5) mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, (6) prescription drugs, (7) rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, (8) laboratory services, (9) preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and (10) pediatric services, including oral and vision care.*
Here are some questions that you might want to know about what is unfolding: