Tag: Kavita Patel

Essential Health Benefits: Balancing Costs, Coverage, And Necessity

The much anticipated Institute of Medicine Report on essential health benefits (EHB) was released last week with a series of recommendations that answered some questions and raised many more. The report offers a very important opportunity for researchers, policymakers, providers and patients to fill in some of the white space between the recommendations.

Background on EHB in the Affordable Care Act and some Legislative History

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) tasked the IOM to make recommendations on the methods for determining and updating the essential health benefits that must be offered by qualified health plans seeking to participate in exchanges as defined in section 1301 of the statute. The ACA identified ten categories of items and services that must be included in a package of benefits:

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

The Affordable Care Act did not have a conference committee report, which is the product of the House and Senate working to resolve differences between the two chambers’ versions and also helps to highlight legislative intent. So the long history of the decisions behind the language and legislative intent is not as apparent.  Briefly, Congress looked at many design models and previous bills, such as HR 3600 — one of the health reform bills put forward during the Clinton administration — which contained 61 pages of details on benefits. This approach was was felt to be too detailed and prescriptive.  Staff from Senator Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committtee used the Massachusetts language on exchange benefits and its promulgated regulations and then made important additions such as habilitative services (educational or long term services, often associated with long terms disabilities or conditions such as autism).

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