Jones Applauds Flexibility to States Regarding Essential Health Benefits

Friday, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a statement after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin including a number of policy proposals that provide states with a great degree of flexibility as they continue to implement the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The bulletin serves as a blueprint of the approach HHS will take toward the rulemaking process in defining essential health benefits.

"I appreciate the flexibility that Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius is providing to states with regard to determining the "essential health benefits" that health insurers and HMOs will be required to include in their benefit packages," Commissioner Dave Jones said. "I look forward to hearing from healthcare stakeholders regarding which option the state should choose in defining essential health benefits," continued Jones.

Under the HHS blueprint, states would be afforded the flexibility to choose a health insurance product to serve as a "benchmark" for the benefits and services that make up the "essential health benefits" package that health insurers and HMOs must offer to policyholders. According to the HHS bulletin, states would select one from among the following types of health insurance or HMO plans: (1) One of the three largest small group plans in the state; (2) One of the three largest state employee health plans; (3) One of the three largest federal employee health plan options; and (4) The largest HMO plan offered in the state's commercial market.

According to the New York Times, political observers suggest the Obama Administration’s decision to allow the states great flexibility is an effort to re-cast the health care overhaul as sensitive to local markets and blunt criticism from Republican Presidential hopefuls the legislation is more big government taking away consumer's choice. 

Click here to view HHS' announcement.