Essential Health Benefits: Balancing Costs, Coverage and Necessity

Kavita Patel

Posted 10/14/11 on the Health Affairs Blog

Copyright ©2011 Health Affairs by Project HOPE – The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.

The much anticipated Institute of Medicine Report on essential health benefits (EHB) was released last week with a series of recommendations that answered some questions and raised many more. The report offers a very important opportunity for researchers, policymakers, providers and patients to fill in some of the white space between the recommendations.

Background on EHB in the Affordable Care Act and some Legislative History

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) tasked the IOM to make recommendations on the methods for determining and updating the essential health benefits that must be offered by qualified health plans seeking to participate in exchanges as defined in section 1301 of the statute. The ACA identified ten categories of items and services that must be included in a package of benefits:

  • 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
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

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