In a new technical release, the government agencies responsible for implementing various health care reform requirements (the U.S. Departments of Labor, the Treasury, and Health and Human Services) have extended the reprieve that they previously granted with respect to certain rules affecting health benefit claims and appeals. Last year, these agencies announced that they would not enforce the following requirements until July 1, 2011:

  • Notifying a claimant of an urgent claim decision within a maximum of 24 hours (shortened from a 72-hour standard)
  • Writing claim and appeal determination notices in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner  
  • Preparing claim and appeal determinations to provide specified information, including diagnosis, treatment and denial codes and their meanings, and contact information for an applicable office of health insurance consumer assistance or ombudsman (the new technical release provides current contact information for these offices)  
  • Meeting a standard of strict compliance with the claim and appeal standards  

(Click here to read an earlier legal alert that addresses the initial reprieve.)

The new technical release extends the non-enforcement period to January 1, 2012, for all of these requirements but one. Enforcement of the requirement to include specified information in notices will begin on a date that depends on the applicable plan year and, in part, on the information. However, for calendar-year plans, the extension for all information will last until January 1, 2012.

The extension allows additional time for the government agencies to issue further guidance on the new claim and appeal requirements before plans need to make adjustments. The technical release does not alter the complete exemption from the new claim and appeal requirements that applies to grandfathered plans.