Standardized insurance brochure rule shouldn't cater to insurers

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) shouldn't weaken a requirement that health insurers disclose coverage information to consumers in standardized insurance forms, consumer groups say.

The health reform law requires insurers distribute summary of benefits and coverage forms, and several consumer advocacy groups (American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Consumers Union and AARP) are concerned HHS will lessen the forms' effectiveness in a final rule expected soon. They urged HHS in a letter last week to reject insurers' claims that standardized summary of benefits and coverage forms will be too costly, burdensome and intrusive to implement, reported the Associated Press.

The groups have learned the rule may omit two of the coverage examples HHS set out in the proposed rule and may delay or weaken employer-sponsored plans' compliance deadline. "We are very concerned that compared to the proposed rule that was released in August, the final rule we are expecting shortly will be weakened," Lynn Quincy, a senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, told the AP. "That would be very bad for consumers."

Specifically, the groups told HHS that the final rule should be implemented "well in advance" of open enrollment period this fall, as well as require insurers to provide multiple coverage examples and premium information, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

"The summary of benefits and coverage [document] is a vital first step in making consumers better informed and able to make the proper decisions for themselves," Stephen Finan, senior director for policy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told Kaiser Health News. Some states don't require insurers to provide information about doctors and other policy details until after a consumer applies for coverage.

HHS spokeswoman Erin Shields didn't tell Kaiser Health News whether the final rule will favor industry or consumer groups. "As always, we appreciate this and all feedback and value a constructive dialogue on this important, new consumer protection," she said.

To learn more:
- read the consumer groups' letter
- read the Associated Press article
- check out the Kaiser Health News article
- see The Hill's Healthwatch article