Reuters: U.S. health benefits recommendations coming Oct. 7

U.S. health benefits recommendations coming Oct. 7

Thu, Sep 29 2011

By Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) – A key recommendation for medical coverage standards under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul will be released on Oct. 7, according to the organization preparing the report.

The Institute of Medicine, one of the national academies of science that advises U.S. policymakers, was tasked with recommending how U.S. health regulators should determine the basic health benefits for millions of Americans who will qualify for coverage sold through state-based insurance exchanges beginning in 2014.

IOM spokeswoman Christine Stencel said on Thursday that the agency will release the report on Oct. 7, just a week later than its self-imposed deadline of the end of September.

Stencel has previously told Reuters that IOM will not produce specific benefits standards for the exchanges. Instead, the group is working toward recommendations on criteria and methods that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to determine and update the essential health benefits package.

The findings will guide HHS in drafting the final rules, expected by the end of the year.

Those rules are perhaps the most anticipated piece of information still awaited by states, employers, health providers and especially insurers under Obama’s landmark healthcare reform. They will outline which health services should be mandated by the government from all insurance plans looking to compete for new customers on the exchanges.

The exchanges are envisioned as open marketplaces of competing insurance plans where small businesses and uninsured individuals could band together and get cheaper rates as well as automatically be considered for government subsidies.

As Washington increasingly focuses on efforts to rein in spending, the U.S. health sector will be closely watching the cost of the new coverage requirements.

HHS has been subject to intense lobbying over the rule as virtually the entire U.S. healthcare system could be affected by it. It remains unclear how specific both IOM’s recommendations and HHS’s final rules will be.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act is designed to extend healthcare coverage to an estimated 32 million Americans who are now uninsured. (Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Carol Bishopric and Tim Dobbyn)



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