Proposed Summary of Benefits and Coverage Template and Updates
A Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) is four-page (double-sided) communication required by the federal government. It must contain specific information, in a specific order and with a minimum size type, about a group health benefit's coverage and limitations. In February 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued proposed revisions to the template and related materials. The agency expects final templates and materials to apply to plan or policy years beginning on or after January 1, 2017. The proposal includes both a blank template and a sample completed template along with instructions for completion. The agency has also invited public comments on the proposed template, to be submitted on or before March 28, 2016. All information about current and proposed SBCs, including a proposed uniform glossary and more can be found on the DOL's website.
For fully insured plans, the insurer is responsible for providing the SBC to the plan administrator (usually this is the employer). The plan administrator and the insurer are both responsible for providing the SBC to participants, although only one of them actually has to do this.
For self-funded plans, the plan administrator is responsible for providing the SBC to participants. Assistance may be available from the plan administrator's TPA, advisor, etc., but the plan administrator is ultimately responsible. (The plan administrator is generally the employer, not the claims administrator.)
The proposed template is shorter than the original four-page (double sided) communication. It includes a new "important question" that asks "Are there services covered before you meet your deductible?" and requires family plans to disclose whether or not the plan has embedded deductibles or out-of-pocket limits. This is reported in the "why this matters" column in relation to the question "what is the overall deductible?" and plans must list "If you have other family members on the policy, they have to meet their own individual deductible until the overall family deductible has been met" or alternatively, "If you have other family members on the policy, the overall family deductible must be met before the plan begins to pay."
Tiered networks must be disclosed and the question "Will you pay less if you use a network provider" is now included. The proposed SBC also includes language that warns participants that they could receive out-of-network providers while they are in an in-network facility. The SBC also indicates a consumer could receive a "balance bill" from an out-of-network provider.
The "explanatory coverage page" was dropped from the proposed template.
The provided coverage examples provide clarification to the "having a baby" example and the "managing type 2 diabetes" example, in addition to providing a third example of "dealing with a simple fracture." The coverage example must be calculated assuming that a participant does not earn wellness credits or participate in an employer's wellness program. If the employer has a wellness program that could reduce the employee's costs, they must include the following language: "These numbers assume the patient does not participate in the plan's wellness program. If you participate in the plan's wellness program, you may be able to reduce your costs. For more information about the wellness program, please contact: [insert]."
The column for "Limitations, Exceptions, & Other Important Information" must contain core limitations, which include:
- When a service category or a substantial portion of a service category is excluded from coverage (i.e., column should indicate "brand name drugs excluded" in health benefit plans that only cover generic drugs);
- When cost sharing for covered in-network services does not count toward the out-of-pocket limit;
- Limits on the number of visits or on specific dollar amounts payable under the health benefit plan; and
- When prior authorization is required for services.
The proposed template and instructions indicate that qualified health plans (those certified and sold on the Marketplace) that cover excepted abortions (such as those in cases of rape or incest, or when a mother's life is at stake) and plans that cover non-excepted abortion services must list "abortion" in the covered services box. Plans that exclude abortion must list it in the "excluded services" box, and plans that cover only excepted abortions must list in the "excluded services" box as "abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is endangered)." Health plans that are not qualified health plans are not required to disclose abortion coverage, but they may do so if they wish.