Summary of Benefits & Coverage and Glossary

Summary of Benefits and Coverage

Working with States to Protect Consumers

Uniform Glossary of Health Coverage and Medical Terms

Introduction

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers and group health plans will provide the 180 million Americans who have private insurance with information about their health plan benefits and coverage. Specifically, the regulations will ensure consumers have access to two forms that will help them understand and evaluate their health insurance choices. The forms include:

  • An easy-to-understand summary of benefits and coverage
  • A uniform glossary of terms commonly used in health insurance coverage such as "deductible" and "co-payment"

Summary of Benefits and Coverage

Under the law, insurance companies and group health plans will provide consumers with a document detailing, in plain language, information about health plan benefits and coverage. This summary of benefits and coverage document will help consumers better understand the coverage they have and, for the first time, allow them to compare different coverage options. It will summarize the key features of the plan or coverage, such as the covered benefits, cost-sharing provisions, and coverage limitations and exceptions. People will receive the summary when shopping for coverage, enrolling in coverage, at each new plan year, and within seven business days of requesting a copy from their health insurance issuer or group health plan.
 
This summary of benefits and coverage will include a new, standardized health plan comparison tool for consumers called “coverage examples,” much like the Nutrition Facts label required for packaged foods. The coverage examples would illustrate how a health insurance policy or plan would cover care for common benefits scenarios. Plans and issuers will simulate claims processing for each scenario so consumers can see an illustration of the coverage they get for their premium dollar under a plan. The examples will help consumers see how valuable the health plan will be at times when they may need the coverage.

Working with States to Protect Consumers

The Affordable Care Act establishes common-sense consumer protections and requires insurers to operate in a more transparent manner.  Fair rules and transparency help create a more level playing field between consumers and insurers. The law also empowers States by putting them in the driver’s seat in implementing many of these new consumer protections.
 
On July 23, 2010, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury issued an interim final rule regarding internal claims and appeals and external review processes for group health plans and health insurance issuers offering coverage in the group and individual markets.  This rule works to give people in most plans better information about what their rights are and why their claims were denied or coverage rescinded. Under the rule, consumers have the:

  • Right to information about why a claim or coverage has been denied.  Health plans and insurance companies have to tell you why they’ve decided to deny a claim or chosen to end your coverage – and how you can appeal that decision.
  • Right to appeal to the insurance company.  If you’ve had a claim denied or had your coverage rescinded, you have the right to an internal appeals process, a process in which you ask your insurance company to conduct a full and fair review of its decision.  If the case is urgent, your insurance company must speed up this process.
  • Right to an independent review.  Often, insurers and their policyholders can resolve disputes during the internal appeals process.  If you can’t work it out through the internal appeals process, you now have the right to take your appeal to an independent third-party for review of the insurer’s decision.  This is called “external review.”  This way, the insurance company no longer gets the final say regarding your benefits, and patients and doctors get a greater measure of control over health care

These protections and standards are an important step forward in reforming the health care system to make sure it works for consumers, not just insurance companies.

Uniform Glossary of Health Coverage and Medical Terms

This glossary has many commonly used terms, but isn’t a full list. These glossary terms and definitions are intended to be educational and may be different from the terms and definitions in your plan. Some of these terms also might not have exactly the same meaning when used in your policy or plan, and in any such case, the policy or plan governs.

Appeal

A request for your health insurer or plan to review a decision or a grievance again.

Balance Billing

When a provider bills you for the difference between the provider’s charge and the allowed amount. For example, if the provider’s charge is $100 and the allowed amount is $70, the provider may bill you for the remaining $30. A preferred provider may not balance bill you for covered services.

Co-insurance

Your share of the costs of a covered health care service, calculated as a percent (for example, 20%) of the allowed amount for the service. You pay co-insurance plus any deductibles you owe. For example, if the health insurance or plan’s allowed amount for an office visit is $100 and you’ve met your deductible, your co-insurance payment of 20% would be $20. The health insurance or plan pays the rest of the allowed amount.

Complications of Pregnancy

Conditions due to pregnancy, labor and delivery that require medical care to prevent serious harm to the health of the mother or the fetus. Morning sickness and a non-emergency caesarean section aren’t complications of pregnancy.

Co-payment

A fixed amount (for example, $15) you pay for a covered health care service, usually when you receive the service. The amount can vary by the type of covered health care service.

Deductible

The amount you owe for health care services your health insurance or plan covers before your health insurance or plan begins to pay. For example, if your deductible is $1000, your plan won’t pay anything until you’ve met your $1000 deductible for covered health care services subject to the deductible. The deductible may not apply to all services.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME)

Equipment and supplies ordered by a health care provider for everyday or extended use. Coverage for DME may include: oxygen equipment, wheelchairs, crutches or blood testing strips for diabetics.

Emergency Medical Condition

An illness, injury, symptom or condition so serious that a reasonable person would seek care right away to avoid severe harm.

Emergency Medical Transportation

Ambulance services for an emergency medical condition.

Emergency Room Care

Emergency services you get in an emergency room.

Emergency Services

Evaluation of an emergency medical condition and treatment to keep the condition from getting worse.

Excluded Services

Health care services that your health insurance or plan doesn’t pay for or cover.

Grievance

A complaint that you communicate to your health insurer or plan.

Habilitation Services

Health care services that help a person keep, learn or improve skills and functioning for daily living. Examples include therapy for a child who isn’t walking or talking at the expected age. These services may include physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology and other services for people with disabilities in a variety of inpatient and/or outpatient settings.

Health Insurance

A contract that requires your health insurer to pay some or all of your health care costs in exchange for a premium.

Home Health Care

Health care services a person receives at home.

Hospice Services

Services to provide comfort and support for persons in the last stages of a terminal illness and their families.

Hospitalization

Care in a hospital that requires admission as an inpatient and usually requires an overnight stay. An overnight stay for observation could be outpatient care:

Hospital Outpatient Care

Care in a hospital that usually doesn’t require an overnight stay.

In-network Co-insurance

The percent (for example, 20%) you pay of the allowed amount for covered health care services to providers who contract with your health insurance or plan. In-network co-insurance usually costs you less than out-of-network co-insurance.

In-network Co-payment

A fixed amount (for example, $15) you pay for covered health care services to providers who contract with your health insurance or plan. In-network co-payments usually are less than out-of-network co-payments.

Medically Necessary

Health care services or supplies needed to prevent, diagnose or treat an illness, injury, condition, disease or its symptoms and that meet accepted standards of medicine.

Network

The facilities, providers and suppliers your health insurer or plan has contracted with to provide health care services.

Non-Preferred Provider

A provider who doesn’t have a contract with your health insurer or plan to provide services to you. You’ll pay more to see a non-preferred provider. Check your policy to see if you can go to all providers who have contracted with your health insurance or plan, or if your health insurance or plan has a “tiered” network and you must pay extra to see some providers.

Out-of-Network Co-insurance

The percent (for example, 40%) you pay of the allowed amount for covered health care services to providers who do not contract with your health insurance or plan. Out-of-network co-insurance usually costs you more than in-network co-insurance.

Out-of-Network Co-payment

A fixed amount (for example, $30) you pay for covered health care services from providers who do not contract with your health insurance or plan. Out-of-network co-payments usually are more than in-network co-payments.

Out-of-Pocket Limit

The most you pay during a policy period (usually a year) before your health insurance or plan begins to pay 100% of the allowed amount. This limit never includes your premium, balance-billed charges or health care your health insurance or plan doesn’t cover. Some health insurance or plans don’t count all of your co-payments, deductibles, co-insurance payments, out-of-network payments or other expenses toward this limit.

Physician Services

Health care services a licensed medical physician (M.D. – Medical Doctor or D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) provides or coordinates.

Plan

A benefit your employer, union or other group sponsor provides to you to pay for your health care services.

Preauthorization

A decision by your health insurer or plan that a health care service, treatment plan, prescription drug or durable medical equipment is medically necessary, called prior authorization, prior approval or precertification. Your health insurance or plan may require preauthorization for certain services before you receive them, except in an emergency. Preauthorization isn’t a promise your health insurance or plan will cover the cost.

Preferred Provider

A provider who has a contract with your health insurer or plan to provide services to you at a discount. Check your policy to see if you can see all preferred providers or if your health insurance or plan has a “tiered” network and you must pay extra to see some providers. Your health insurance or plan may have preferred providers who are also “participating” providers. Participating providers also contract with your health insurer or plan, but the discount may not be as great, and you may have to pay more.

Premium

The amount that must be paid for your health insurance or plan. You and/or your employer usually pay it monthly, quarterly or yearly.

Prescription Drug Coverage

Health insurance or plan that helps pay for prescription drugs and medications.

Prescription Drugs

Drugs and medications that by law require a prescription.

Primary Care Physician

A physician (M.D. – Medical Doctor or D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) who directly provides or coordinates a range of health care services for a patient.

Primary Care Provider

A physician (M.D. – Medical Doctor or D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or physician assistant, as allowed under state law, who provides, coordinates or helps a patient access a range of health care services.

Provider

A physician (M.D. – Medical Doctor or D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), health care professional or health care facility licensed, certified or accredited as required by state law.

Reconstructive Surgery

Surgery and follow-up treatment needed to correct or improve a part of the body because of birth defects, accidents, injuries or medical conditions.

Rehabilitation Services

Health care services that help a person keep, get back or improve skills and functioning for daily living that have been lost or impaired because a person was sick, hurt or disabled. These services may include physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology and psychiatric rehabilitation services in a variety of inpatient and/or outpatient settings.

Skilled Nursing Care

Services from licensed nurses in your own home or in a nursing home. Skilled care services are from technicians and therapists in your own home or in a nursing home.

Specialist

A physician specialist focuses on a specific area of medicine or a group of patients to diagnose, manage, prevent or treat certain types of symptoms and conditions. A non-physician specialist is a provider who has more training in a specific area of health care.

UCR (Usual, Customary and Reasonable)

The amount paid for a medical service in a geographic area based on what providers in the area usually charge for the same or similar medical service. The UCR amount sometimes is used to determine the allowed amount.

Urgent Care

Care for an illness, injury or condition serious enough that a reasonable person would seek care right away, but not so severe as to require emergency room care.