Exchange benefits recommendations might be delayed

It appears that there's a good chance insurers won't know which basic health benefits they will be required to provide as part of the health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), which was charged with developing recommendations on the benefits, is still working to release its report by the September deadline, but the issue date could be pushed back until October or possibly even November. "The committee has stated its target to issue a report by the end of September. But there is a chance that the report could slip a little later," IOM spokeswoman Christine Stencel told Reuters.

An 18-member IOM committee recently signed off on its report; several experts are now reviewing it to make recommendations to the IOM before a final report can be sent to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

Stencel added that instead of issuing specific benefits standards for the exchanges, the IOM is working toward recommendations on criteria and methods that would allow HHS to determine and update the essential health benefits package, Reuters notes.

This delay affects insurers because they can't begin planning until they know what's required, says Justine Handelman, vice president of legislative and regulatory policy for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. "Plans really need to know what's in all of these rules, because when you think about the timeline to develop these products, price them, there's a lot of uncertainty," she told Reuters.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article