HHS Finalizes Policies to Make Coverage More Accessible and Expand Behavioral Health Care Access for Millions of Americans in 2024
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced measures that will make coverage more accessible, expand behavioral health care access, simplify choice, and make it easier for millions of Americans to select a health plan in 2024.
“The Biden-Harris Administration has worked tirelessly to expand access to health insurance and lower health care costs for America’s families,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s announcement of the 2024 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters Final Rule is a step forward toward creating a health care system which prioritizes equity, access, and affordability. HHS remains committed to removing barriers to care to ensure quality health care is within reach for everyone who needs it.”
“We’ve made great progress with record insured rates, but affordable health care remains a concern across the nation,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “As we continue to work toward accessible and equitable health care for all Americans, the 2024 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters Final Rule we’re finalizing today will make it easier for consumers to access, choose and maintain the health coverage that best fits their needs.”
The 2024 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters Final Rule (final 2024 Payment Notice) finalizes standards for issuers and Marketplaces, as well as requirements for agents, brokers, web-brokers, and Assisters that help consumers with enrollment through Marketplaces that use the federal platform. These changes further the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of advancing health equity by addressing the health disparities that underlie our health system, such as strengthening network adequacy standards and creating a new special enrollment period (SEP) for those who lose Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) coverage, among others. The rule also builds on the Affordable Care Act by expanding access to quality, affordable health coverage and care, especially behavioral health care, and making it easier to select and enroll in health coverage.
Making it easier to enroll in coverage
While the administration previously announced a temporary SEP for individuals losing Medicaid or CHIP until July 31, 2024 in recognition of the end of the continuous coverage requirement in Medicaid, the final rule establishes a permanent policy. Beginning January 1, 2024, Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFMs) and State-based Marketplaces (SBMs) will have the option to implement a new SEP for people losing Medicaid or CHIP coverage, allowing consumers to select a plan for Marketplace coverage 60 days before, or 90 days after, losing Medicaid or CHIP coverage. This SEP works to reduce gaps in coverage and allows for a more seamless transition into Marketplace coverage.
The final rule also allows Assisters to provide more convenient and efficient help to consumers. Assisters currently conduct direct outreach, education, and schedule follow-up appointments, but are generally prohibited from providing enrollment assistance upon an initial interaction if initiated by the Assister. Removing this barrier will make it easier for consumers to get help when enrolling in coverage. Additionally, this policy change will likely improve health literacy in rural and underserved communities and reduce burden on consumers, especially for consumers with a lack of access transportation, inflexible job schedules, and those who are immunocompromised.
Increasing access to health care services
Expanding access to behavioral health care remains a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. As part of that effort, the final rule includes two new essential community provider (ECP) categories that are critical to delivering needed behavioral health care: Substance Use Disorder Treatment Centers and Mental Health Facilities.
The final rule will also help expand access to care by extending the requirement for plans to contract with at least 35% of available ECPs in a plan’s service area to apply to two individual ECP categories: Federally Qualified Health Centers and Family Planning Providers. The overall 35% threshold requirement also remains in place. These changes, in conjunction with other expanded Network Adequacy requirements in the final rule, increase provider choice, advance health equity, and expand access to care for consumers who have low incomes, complex or chronic health care conditions, or who reside in underserved areas, as these consumers are often disproportionately affected by unanticipated costs associated with out-of-network providers and limited access to providers.
Simplifying choice and improving the plan selection process
The final rule includes provisions to make it easier for consumers to select a health plan that best fits their individual needs and budget by refining designs for standardized plan options. The final rule is also limiting the number of non-standardized plan options offered by issuers of qualified health plans (QHPs) through the FFMs and SBMs on the Federal Platform (SBM-FPs) to four in each area for the 2024 plan year. This will reduce plan choice overload while continuing to provide a robust number of options for consumers to help fit their health needs.
For more information on the final rule, consult the fact sheet: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/hhs-notice-benefit-and-payment-parameters-2024-final-rule
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