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February 28, 2013

Health care law to allow consumers to better find and compare options

(Continued)

To give states the flexibility to define essential health benefits in a way that would best meet the needs of their residents, this rule also finalizes a benchmark-based approach. This approach allows states to select a benchmark plan from options offered in the market, which are equal in scope to a typical employer plan. Twenty-six states selected a benchmark plan for their state, and the largest small business plan in each state will be the benchmark for the rest.

The rule additionally outlines actuarial value levels in the individual and small group markets, which helps to distinguish health plans offering different levels of coverage. Beginning in 2014, plans that cover essential health benefits must cover a certain percentage of costs, known as actuarial value or “metal levels.” These levels are 60 percent for a bronze plan, 70 percent for a silver plan, 80 percent for a gold plan and 90 percent for a platinum plan. Metal levels will allow consumers to compare insurance plans with similar levels of coverage and cost-sharing based on premiums, provider networks and other factors. In addition, the health care law limits the annual amount of cost sharing that individuals will pay across all health plans – preventing insured Americans from facing catastrophic costs associated with an illness or injury. 

Policies in thes rule also provide more information on accreditation standards for qualified health plans that will be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as exchanges), one-stop shops that will provide access to quality, affordable private health insurance choices.

Together, these provisions will help consumers compare and select health plans in the individual and small group markets based on what is important to them and their families,the release stated People can make these choices knowing these health plans will cover a core set of critical benefits and can more easily compare the level of coverage based on a uniform standard. Further, these provisions help expand choices and competition on the Marketplaces.

For more information on the rule, visit: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/ehb-2-20-2013.html.

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