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Office of the Secretary

HHS issues RFI on discrimination in health programs and activities

Posted on August 3, 2013

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a Request for Information (RFI) regarding nondiscrimination in health programs and activities. Pursuant to section 1557(c) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Secretary of HHS is required to issue regulations on nondiscrimination that expand upon existing Civil Rights laws. The RFI was released so that HHS may gather information on individual experiences with discrimination on race, sex, color, national origin, age, or disability in the healthcare setting.

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Healthinfolaw.org releases overview of omnibus HIPAA final rule

Posted on February 1, 2013

On January 17, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an omnibus Final Rule, which modifies the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement, and Breach Notification Rules, as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). It also includes changes to the Privacy Rule requires by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The team at Health Information & the Law has written a detailed overview of the Final Rule, which highlights the key changes to the Privacy, Security, Enforcement, and Breach Notification Rules. A longer, more comprehensive analysis piece along with a comparative table of changes included in the Final Rule is forthcoming at their website, HealthInfoLaw.org.

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ONC releases Stage 3 Meaningful Use Request for Comment

Posted on November 27, 2012

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology’s Health IT Policy Committee (HITPC), which advises the government on its electronic health record incentive program, published recommendations for Meaningful Use stage 3 requirements. These requirements will go into effect in 2016. There is a 45-day comment period on the proposed recommendations, which ends January 14, 2013. The stage 3 objectives, for the most part, reiterate the stage 2 goals, with higher thresholds for demonstrating Meaningful Use.

The stage 3 proposal does introduce some new objectives. One new objective would require providers to give 10% of the patients the ability to submit patient-generated health information. The goal of this requirement would be to improve health outcomes and/or to increase patient engagement in care. Another new objective expands the information that eligible clinicians and hospitals would have to provide at transitions of care. The expanded information requirements would include a care synopsis, setting-specific goals, and instructions for care during the transition. A third new objective is the requirement that providers implement 15 clinical decision support interventions, as opposed to the proposed five in the stage 2 proposal.

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Sebelius grants RGA request for more time to decide on a state-run exchange

Posted on November 16, 2012

Late yesterday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius extended the deadline for states to decide whether to run their own exchange until December 14, 2012. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) sent a letter requesting the extension to Sebelius on Wednesday November 14, 2012, just two days prior to the initial deadline. This is the second time in a week that the Secretary has made extensions to key Exchange deadlines, having also recently extended the deadline to submit the state-run exchange blueprint paperwork (also December 14, 2012) and the deadline of whether a state will choose to partner with the federal government on their exchange (February 15, 2013).

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HHS extends submission deadline for exchange blueprints, decision on whether to partner with feds

Posted on November 9, 2012

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today extended the deadline for states to submit Exchange Blueprint documents, until December 14, 2012. States must still notify HHS of their intent to pursue a state-run exchange by November 16, 2012, but now have an additional month to formally submit the Blueprint. Additionally, the deadline for states to decide on whether to pursue a state-federal partnership Exchange has been extended until February 15, 2013, a full three months beyond the original November 16, 2012 deadline. This decision by HHS should allow states more time to make crucial post-election decisions as to what kind of Exchange they intend to pursue, as well as allow the Administration more time to issue key regulations.

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HHS releases white paper on EHB

Posted on February 14, 2012

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) identified ten categories of services and items to be included in essential health benefits (EHBs), and specified that the scope of EHBs must be equal to the scope of benefits provided under a typical employer plan. The ten categories include: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

A white paper issued in December by the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) found…

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Sebelius announces additional time for religious employers to comply with contraception coverage requirement

Posted on January 20, 2012

US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that religious non-profit employers who do not currently offer contraceptive coverage to their employees will have an additional year to comply with the preventive services requirement set forth in an earlier Interim Final Rule (IFR). The earlier rule requires, that as of August 1, 2012, all employers except for churches must include contraception among the free preventive services covered in the insurance plans they offer to employees. The new announcement allows those employers who have religious objections an additional year to comply with the requirement.

For more information on preventive services, click here.

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HHS releases bulletin on essential benefits, allows for state flexibility

Posted on December 16, 2011

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a pre-rule informational Bulletin which lays out its proposed approach for determining the Essential Benefits package required of all qualified health plans (QHPs) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). HHS deferred to States’ judgment by allowing a State to create a benchmark essential benefits package from a currently-available plan within the State, as long as the package includes benefits from the ten benefit categories laid out in the ACA. HHS proposes that States choose the benchmark plan from a list of plan types:

  • One of the three largest small group plans in the State by enrollment
  • One of the three largest State employee health plans by enrollment
  • One of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment
  • The largest HMO plan offered in the State‚Äôs commercial market by enrollment

If a State does not select a benchmark plan, HHS intends to propose that the default benchmark be the benefits package from the largest small group plan within the State.

For more information on Essential Benefits, click here.

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HHS Secretary Sebelius announces drop of CLASS Act

Posted on October 14, 2011

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to Congress earlier today announcing that the Obama administration has given up on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program. The goal of the CLASS initiative was to improve long-term care insurance options for Americans. The CLASS Act was championed by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Republicans have opposed the initiative since its introduction as part of last year’s health care law.

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Government tool promotes transparency regarding insurance rate increases

Posted on October 7, 2011

Since September 1, 2011, health insurance companies have been required to inform the public whenever they want to increase health insurance rates for individual or small group policies by an average of 10% or more. Insurance experts in state or federal government will then review these rate increase requests in a process known as “rate review.” On Friday, the Obama administration released a Web-based tool that will allow consumers to track when health plans are considering steep premium hikes. The new tool enables insurance customers to search for potential hikes by state.

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