HHS rule okays prepaid debit cards for exchange payment

Insurers must accept prepaid debit cards as payments for plans sold on health insurance exchanges, according to a new final rule issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

They also are required to accept cashier's checks, money orders, paper checks and bank-account transfers. But insurers won't have to take cash as payment, the rule says.

The move is designed to help uninsured consumers who don't have checking accounts be able to enroll in health coverage available through the online marketplaces. About 8.5 million people are estimated to not have health insurance, about 27 percent of whom also might lack bank accounts, reported Bloomberg Businessweek.

But HHS stopped short of requiring insurers to accept automatic monthly payments from either credit or debit cards, frustrating some consumer advocates. "If you require someone to take a monthly step they're just less likely to do it," Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, told the Wall Street Journal. "This is very disappointing."

Although accepting the nontraditional payment methods could prove more costly for insurers, America's Health Insurance Plans approved the rule, the WSJ noted.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS rule (.pdf)
- read the Bloomberg Businessweek article
- see the Wall Street Journal article