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Health Insurance "Protection"

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  • Health Insurance "Protection"

    I just received this as part of an email from my health insurance:

    "New protections ensure you don't pay more than your in-network cost-sharing for out-of-network emergency services, or for "surprise bills" related to non-emergency health care services rendered on or after April 1, 2015. These new protections take effect April 1, 2015."

    I am making the assumption that this is nationwide so suggest if you have not received anything from your carrier that you contact them to find out if you are covered.

  • #2
    Re: Health Insurance "Protection"

    What is a "surprise bill"?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Health Insurance "Protection"

      This is what the ACA regulations say [not fun reading]

      If a plan or health insurance coverage provides any benefits with respect to emergency services in an emergency department of a hospital, the plan or issuer must cover emergency services in a way that is consistent with these interim final regulations. These interim final regulations require that a plan or health insurance coverage providing emergency services must do so without the individual or the health care provider having to obtain prior authorization (even if the emergency services are provided out of network) and without regard to whether the health care provider furnishing the emergency services is an in-network provider with respect to the services. The emergency services must be provided without regard to any other term or condition of the plan or health insurance coverage other than the exclusion or coordination of benefits, an affiliation or waiting period permitted under part 7 of ERISA, part A of title XXVII of the PHS Act, or chapter 100 of the Code, or applicable cost-sharing requirements. For a plan or health insurance coverage with a network of providers that provides benefits for emergency services, the plan or issuer may not impose any administrative requirement or limitation on benefits for out-of-network emergency services that is more restrictive than the requirements or limitations that apply to in-network emergency services.
      Additionally, for a plan or health insurance coverage with a network, these interim final regulations provide rules for cost-sharing requirements for emergency services that are expressed as a copayment amount or coinsurance rate, and other cost-sharing requirements. Cost-sharing requirements expressed as a copayment amount or coinsurance rate imposed for out-of-network emergency services cannot exceed the cost-sharing requirements that would be imposed if the services were provided in-network. Out-of-network providers may, however, also balance bill patients for the difference between the providers' charges and the amount collected from the plan or issuer and from the patient in the form of a copayment or coinsurance amount. Section 1302(c)(3)(B) of the Affordable Care Act excludes such balance billing amounts from the definition of cost sharing, and the requirement in section 2719A(b)(1)(C)(ii)(II) that cost sharing for out-of-network services be limited to that imposed in network only applies to cost sharing expressed as a copayment or coinsurance rate.
      Because the statute does not require plans or issuers to cover balance billing amounts, and does not prohibit balance billing, even where the protections in the statute apply, patients may be subject to balance billing. It would defeat the purpose of the protections in the statute if a plan or issuer paid an unreasonably low amount to a provider, even while limiting the coinsurance or copayment associated with that amount to in-network amounts. To avoid the circumvention of the protections of PHS Act section 2719A, it is necessary that a reasonable amount be paid before a patient becomes responsible for a balance billing amount. Thus, these interim final regulations require that a reasonable amount be paid for services by some objective standard. In establishing the reasonable amount that must be paid, the Departments had to account for wide variation in how plans and issuers determine both in-network and out-of-network rates. For example, for a plan using a capitation arrangement to determine in-network payments to providers, there is no in-network rate per service. Accordingly, these interim final regulations consider three amounts: the in-network rate, the out-of-network rate, and the Medicare rate. Specifically, a plan or issuer satisfies the copayment and coinsurance limitations in the statute if it provides benefits for out-of-network emergency services in an amount equal to the greatest of three possible amounts—
      (1) The amount negotiated with in-network providers for the emergency service furnished;
      (2) The amount for the emergency service calculated using the same method the plan generally uses to determine payments for out-of-network services (such as the usual, customary, and reasonable charges) but substituting the in-network cost-sharing provisions for the out-of-network cost-sharing provisions; or
      (3) The amount that would be paid under Medicare for the emergency service. (12) Each of these three amounts is calculated excluding any in-network copayment or coinsurance imposed with respect to the participant, beneficiary, or enrollee.
      For plans and health insurance coverage under which there is no per-service amount negotiated with in-network providers (such as under a capitation or other similar payment arrangement), the first amount above is disregarded, meaning that the greatest amount is going to be either the out-of-network amount or the Medicare amount. Additionally, with respect to determining the first amount, if a plan or issuer has more than one negotiated amount with in-network providers for a particular emergency service, the amount is the median of these amounts, treating the amount negotiated with each provider as a separate amount in determining the median. Thus, for example, if for a given emergencyservice a plan negotiated a rate of $100 with three providers, a rate of $125 with one provider, and a rate of $150 with one provider; the amounts taken into account to determine the median would be $100, $100, $100, $125, and $150; and the median would be $100. Following the commonly accepted definition of median, if there are an even number of amounts, the median is the average of the middle two. (Cost sharing imposed with respect to the participant, beneficiary, or enrollee would be deducted from this amount before determining the greatest of the three amounts above.)
      The second amount above is determined without reduction for out-of-network cost sharing that generally applies under the plan or health insurance coverage with respect to out-of-network services. Thus, for example, if a plan generally pays 70 percent of the usual, customary, and reasonable amount for out-of-network services, the second amount above for an emergency service is the total (that is, 100 percent) of the usual, customary, and reasonable amount for the service, not reduced by the 30 percent coinsurance that would generally apply to out-of-network services (but reduced by the in-network copayment or coinsurance that the individual would be responsible for if the emergency service had been provided in-network).
      Although a plan or health insurance coverage is generally not constrained by the requirements of PHS Act section 2719A for cost-sharing requirements other than copayments or coinsurance, these interim final regulations include an anti-abuse rule with respect to such other cost-sharing requirements so that the purpose of limiting copayments and coinsurance for emergency services to the in-network rate cannot be thwarted by manipulation of these other cost-sharing requirements. Accordingly, any other cost-sharing requirement, such as a deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, may be imposed with respect to out-of-network emergency services only if the cost-sharing requirement generally applies to out-of-network benefits. Specifically, a deductible may be imposed with respect to out-of-network emergency services only as part of a deductible that generally applies to out-of-network benefits. Similarly, if an out-of-pocket maximum generally applies to out-of-network benefits, that out-of-pocket maximum must apply to out-of-network emergency services. A plan or health insurance coverage could fashion these other cost-sharing requirements so that a participant, beneficiary, or enrollee is required to pay less for emergency services than for general out-of-network services; the anti-abuse rule merely prohibits a plan or health insurance coverage from fashioning such rules so that a participant, beneficiary, or enrollee is required to pay more for emergency services than for general out-of-network services.
      In applying the rules relating to emergency services, the statute and these interim final regulations define the terms emergency medical condition, emergency services, and stabilize. These terms are defined generally in accordance with their meaning under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), section 1867 of the Social Security Act. There are, however, some minor variances from the EMTALA definitions. For example, both EMTALA and PHS Act section 2719A define “emergency medical condition” in terms of the same consequences that could reasonably be expected to occur in the absence of immediate medical attention. Under EMTALA regulations, the likelihood of these consequences is determined by qualified hospital medical personnel, while under PHS Act section 2719A the standard is whether a prudent layperson, who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in such consequences.

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