The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued the Final HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2016.  This rule seeks to improve consumers’ experience in the Health Insurance Marketplace and to ensure their coverage options are affordable and accessible.

The rule finalizes the annual open enrollment period for 2016 to begin on Nov. 1, 2015, and run through Jan. 31, 2016, giving consumers three full months to shop.  To further aid consumers in finding a health plan that best suits their needs, the rule clarifies standards for qualified health plan (QHP) issuers to publish up-to-date, accurate, and complete provider directories and formularies.  Issuers also must make this information available in standard, machine-readable formats.

To enhance the transparency of the rate-setting process, the final rule includes provisions to facilitate public access to information about rate increases in the individual and small group markets for both QHPs and non-QHPs using a uniform timeline.  It also includes provisions to further protect consumers against unreasonable rate increases by ensuring more rates are subject to review.

To ensure consumers have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance, premium stabilization programs were put in place to promote price stability for health insurance in the individual and small group markets.  This rule includes additional provisions and modifications related to the implementation of these programs, as well as the key payment parameters for the 2016 benefit year.

Additionally, the rule will help consumers access the medications they need by improving the process by which an enrollee can request access to medications not included on a plan’s formulary.  The rule provides more detailed procedures for the standard exception process, and adds a requirement for an external review of an exception request if the health plan denies the initial request.  It also clarifies that cost-sharing for drugs obtained through the exceptions process must count toward the annual limitation on cost sharing of a plan subject to the essential health benefits requirement.  The rule also ensures that issuers’ formularies are developed based on expert recommendations.

For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, please obtain a copy of our comprehensive yet easy-to-follow Affordable Care Act Compliance Kit.