KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

HHS Releases Proposed Rules On Essential Health Benefits, Other Key Parts Of Health Law

The Obama Administration Tuesday released some much anticipated rules that will govern the types of benefits insurers must offer in policies sold after 2014 and rules on how they can design wellness programs. States and insurers have been waiting for the proposed rules. One proposed rule looks at how insurers can vary premiums based on age, tobacco use, family size and geography. A second outlines proposed rules for essential health benefits. A third proposed rule would govern employer-based wellness programs.

Kaiser Health News: Administration Releases New Health Law Rules For Insurers, Employers
Long-awaited details on how insurers can structure health benefits and premiums for policies that will cover tens of millions of Americans starting in 2014 were released by the Obama administration Tuesday. The three proposed rules reaffirm key elements of the federal health law, including its requirement that insurers accept all applicants, even those with health conditions, and not charge higher rates based on health, gender or occupation. But the proposals add additional details on how premiums can vary based on age and tobacco use, including an exemption from the extra costs faced by tobacco users if they enroll in programs aimed at helping them quit (Appleby, Hancock and Carey, 11/20).

NBC News: Federal Government Releases Long-Awaited Health Reform Rules
As the 2010 health reform law requires, insurers will no longer be able to dump patients who are starting to cost too much, they won’t be able to charge women more than men, they have to cover anyone who can pay and they’ll have to pay for maternity care, eye exams for kids and for mental health services. “Insurers will not be able to charge someone more just because she is sick or because she used to be sick,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call (Fox, 11/20).

Washington Post: Three Ways Obamacare Changed Tuesday
To call the regulations long would be an understatement: Taken together, the three new regulations weigh in at 333 pages. Largely, they preserve the big provisions that the Affordable Care Act includes: Preventing insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and limiting how much consumers can be expected to pay out of pocket. Still, there are a few important changes that the Obama administration made Tuesday. Culled from the 333 pages of federal regulation, here are the three most important changes that happened (Kliff, 11/20).

NPR: Administration Lays Down Rules For Future Health Insurance
Now that the Supreme Court has found the Affordable Care Act constitutional and the president's re-election made clear that big chunks of the law will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, the administration is finally releasing rules of the road that states and insurance companies have been clamoring for. The big one makes clear how companies will have to comply with anti-discrimination requirements starting in 2014 (Rovner, 11/20).

National Journal: Obama Admin Fills in Health Law Details
The new rules issued by the Health and Human Services Administration spell out how a centerpiece of the law—its requirement that insurers cover even sick or old applicants—will work. They also sketch out what minimum package of benefits must be included in health plans sold on state exchanges. Both rules will have a big impact on the insurance industry and will influence the cost of insurance. The rules are in draft form, which means there will be time for public comment and revisions before they are finalized (Sanger-Katz, 11/20).

Politico Pro: EHB Rule Gives States More Time To Pick A Plan
States will have about a month more to select an essential health benefit package under a proposed rule issued by HHS on Tuesday morning. They’ll have until the end of the proposed rule's 30-day comment period to pick a plan or change their decision — setting up a new Affordable Care Act deadline for right around Christmas. The proposed rule lists the plans that states this fall indicated would serve as a benchmark for required benefits under the Affordable Care Act. As a fallback, the benchmark for any states that don't choose a plan will be the largest plan in their small-group market (Millman, 11/20).

Politico Pro: Health Plans Can Reward Health Behavior, Nonsmoking Programs
[N]ew rules proposed Tuesday would increase the financial leverage insurers will have to incentivize healthy behavior, especially not smoking. The rules would raise the maximum reward for participation in certain wellness programs starting in 2014 from 20 percent to 30 percent of the total cost of coverage in employer-sponsored plans. It would go even higher — 50 percent — for programs that aim to reduce smoking or other tobacco use (Norman, 11/20).

The Hill: HHS Releases Rules Requiring Coverage Of People With Pre-Existing Conditions
The Obama administration released new regulations Tuesday that require insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. The new rules represent one of the first steps taken by the Health and Human Services Department to implement some of the most popular — and most expensive — provisions of President Obama's signature healthcare law. ... Another regulation released Tuesday begins to flesh out the definition of "essential benefits" — the services that individual insurance plans will have to cover, beginning in 2014 (Baker, 11/20).

Modern Healthcare: HHS Releases Proposed ACA Insurance Regulations
Starting in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will make it illegal for health insurance companies to discriminate against people who have pre-existing conditions, which HHS estimates affect some 129 million nonelderly Americans. In the proposed rule, health insurance issuers would generally be barred from denying coverage for such conditions, and individuals would have new special enrollment opportunities in the individual market when they have certain losses of other coverage. Under the regulation, insurance companies will be permitted to vary premiums within limits based on age, tobacco use, family size and geography. Health insurance companies will no longer be able to use factors such as pre-existing conditions, health status, claims history, gender and occupation as reasons to increase premiums (Zigmond, 11/20).

USA Today: Obama Moves Ahead With Health Care Law
The Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday it is putting in place provisions that would make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, enable consumers to compare health plans, and encourage employers to promote employee wellness (Jackson, 11/20).

Bloomberg: Obama Pushes Health Law Forward With Rules for Insurers
UnitedHealth Group Inc. and other health insurers would be able to vary their premiums based only on age, tobacco use, family size or geography under proposed U.S. rules meant to protect people with pre-existing illnesses. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services outlined various conditions and services insurers must cover, and laid out rules to let companies expand employee wellness programs, according to proposed regulations posted online today. The proposals mark the Obama administration’s move to begin formalizing core provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Wayne, 11/20).

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