States Set Out To Define “Essential Health Benefits” Under New Insurance Exchanges

Facing a federal deadline on Monday, states have begun to map out what their “essential health benefits” packages will look like in 2014 under Obamacare’s newly-created insurance exchanges. Under Obamacare provisions, states have leeway in choosing which health plans will be included on their statewide exchanges — as long as they meet certain benchmarks across 10 benefit categories. Although many states are going with essential benefits packages derived from existing statewide and federal “benchmark plans,” Obamacare also requires that plans offer coverage for mental health, prescription drug, and maternity care services that are not included in all existing individual and small-group plans in the states. Among the more expansive of proposed essential benefits are those proposed in Washington and California, which will require plans to provide acupuncture coverage.