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1 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight 200 Independence Avenue SW Washington, DC Date: March 14, 2014 From: Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Title: 2015 Letter to Issuers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing this Final 2015 Letter to Issuers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (Letter). This Letter provides issuers seeking to offer Qualified Health Plans (QHPs), including stand-alone dental plans (SADPs), in a Federallyfacilitated Marketplace (FFM) and/or Federally-facilitated Small Business Health Options Program (FF-SHOP), with operational and technical guidance to help them successfully participate in the Marketplaces. Except where noted, it finalizes the policies in the Draft 2015 Letter to Issuers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (Draft 2015 Letter to Issuers) 1 published on February 4, Some policies with operational implications in the Draft 2015 Letter to Issuers are not being finalized in this Final 2015 Letter to Issuers, with the intent to continue work to accomplish them. Unless otherwise specified, references to the Marketplaces or FFMs include the FF-SHOP. As indicated in previous guidance, 2 states that are performing plan management functions in an FFM have some flexibility in assessing compliance with certification standards and adjusting processes. Throughout this Letter, we identify the areas in which states performing plan management functions in an FFM have flexibility to follow an approach different from that articulated in this guidance. We note that the policies articulated in this Letter apply to QHP issuers starting with the certification process for the 2015 benefit year and beyond, until or unless they are superseded by subsequent guidance or regulations. In the future, CMS intends to issue similar letters and other guidance to provide operational updates to QHP issuers, but we do not intend to issue these letters on more than an annual basis. 1 Draft 2015 Letter to Issuers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces, available at: 2 Guidance on the State Partnership Exchange, available at: FAQs/Downloads/partnership-guidance pdf. 1

2 CMS has previously published regulations and guidance on market-wide and QHP certification standards, eligibility and enrollment procedures, and other Marketplace-related topics in several phases. Additional proposed requirements are included in a regulation titled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Exchange and Insurance Market Standards for 2015 and Beyond, CMS-9949-P, that is being released simultaneously with this letter. These regulations are set out in 45 C.F.R. Subtitle A, Subchapter B as well as in Federal Register issuances. Issuers are advised to consult these materials in conjunction with the Letter to ensure full compliance with the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (together referred to as the Affordable Care Act), as implemented. These and other regulatory and guidance materials are available at Unless otherwise indicated, regulatory references herein are to Title 45 of the Code of Federal Regulations. QHP issuers in FFMs may also be subject to other requirements for the 2015 certification year, as made in future rulemaking. 2

3 CONTENTS Chapter 1: Certification Process and Standards for Qualified Health Plans... 6 Section 1. FFM QHP Application and Certification Process... 7 i. Registration and QHP Application... 9 ii. Issuer Data Collection and Coordination with States... 9 iii. FFM review of QHP Applications Section 2. QHP Certification Process in a State Performing Plan Management Functions in an FFM i. QHP Application and State Review Process Section 3. Recertification for Section 4. Review of Rates i. Consideration of Rate Increases ii. Review of QHP Rates Section 5. OPM Certification of Multi-State Plans Section 6. Certification of Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs) Chapter 2. Qualified Health Plan and Stand-alone Dental Plan Certification Standards Section 1. Licensure and Good Standing Section 2. Service Area Section 3. Network Adequacy Section 4. Essential Community Providers i. Evaluation of Network Adequacy with respect to ECPs ii. Requirements for Payment of Federally Qualified Health Centers Section 5. Accreditation Section 6. Patient Safety Standards for QHP Issuers Section 7. QHP and SADP Agreements Chapter 3. Qualified Health Plan and Stand-alone Dental Plan Design Section 1. Discriminatory Benefit Design: 2015 Approach i. EHB Discriminatory Benefit Design ii. QHP Discriminatory Benefit Design Section 2. Prescription Drugs Section 3. Supporting Informed Consumer Choice

4 Section 4. Stand-alone Dental Plans: 2015 Approach i. Stand-alone Dental Plan Rates ii. Intent to Apply Section 5. Cost Sharing Reduction Plan Variation Reviews Section 6. Calculation of Cost-Sharing Reduction Advance Payments Chapter 4. Qualified Health Plan Performance and Oversight Section 1. Account Management: 2015 Issues Section 2. QHP Issuer Compliance Monitoring Program Section 3. QHP Issuer Compliance Reviews Section 4. FFM Oversight of Agents/Brokers Section 5. Monitoring of Marketing Activities Chapter 5. Employee Choice and Premium Aggregation Services in FF-SHOPs Section 1. Overview Section 2. Single Bill, Single Payment under Premium Aggregation Section 3. FF-SHOP Enrollment and Payment Portals Section 4. Beginning Balances for Plan Years Beginning on and after January 1, Section 5. Bank Accounts Section 6. Initial Payments for New Group Coverage and Frequency of Issuer Payments Section 7. Enrollment and HIX 820 Transactions Section 8. Terminations for and Reinstatements after Non-payment of Premiums Section 9. Premium Payment Reconciliations Section 10. Agent and Broker Commissions and User Fees Section 11. Customer Service for FF-SHOPs Section 12. Premium Aggregation Technical Assistance Section 13. Minimum Participation Rates and Renewals during November 15-December Chapter 6. Consumer Support and Related Issues Section 1. Provider Directory Section 2. Complaints Tracking and Resolution Section 3. Coverage Appeals Section 4. Meaningful Access Section 5. Summary of Benefits and Coverage

5 Section 6. Transparency Chapter 7: Tribal Relations and Support Section 1. Model Contract Addendum for Issuers Working with Indian Health Providers Section 2. Tribal Sponsorship of Premiums

6 CHAPTER 1: CERTIFICATION PROCESS AND STANDARDS FOR QUALIFIED HEALTH PLANS The Affordable Care Act and the applicable Marketplace regulations establish that health plans must meet a number of standards to be certified as qualified health plans (QHPs). Several of these standards apply generally to plans offered in the individual and small group markets regardless of whether the plan is offered through or outside of the Marketplace; the remaining standards are specific to QHPs seeking certification from the Marketplace. CMS expects that states will enforce 2014 market reforms 3 ; accordingly, CMS expects to rely on states reviews of policy forms and rate filings for market reforms as part of its QHP certification process, provided that such states review for compliance with standards that are consistent with federal regulatory standards and complete such reviews in a manner consistent with operational timelines. Issuers should follow state guidance regarding compliance with the processes and criteria for reviews conducted by states. The following sections describe CMS s approach to reviewing plans against standards that generally apply only to issuers seeking certification of QHPs from a Marketplace. The reviews described in these sections will be conducted either by a state that is performing plan management functions and making QHP certification recommendations to CMS, or by CMS as a part of the process of certifying a QHP in the applicable FFM. Each section describes CMS s planned approach to evaluating QHPs against a certification standard when the state is not performing plan management functions. As noted in previously released guidance, states that are performing QHP certification reviews have some flexibility in their application of QHP certification standards, provided that the state s application of each standard is consistent with CMS regulations and guidance. Issuers seeking QHP certification in states that are performing plan management functions should refer to state direction in addition to this guidance. Statebased Marketplaces will conduct their own reviews for QHP-specific standards. This Chapter provides an overview of the QHP certification process in FFMs, both when a state is performing plan management functions as well as when the FFM is performing plan management functions. The QHP certification process for the FFM for the 2015 benefit year maintains many aspects of the process carried out for 2014, including close coordination and 3 States are the primary regulators of health insurers and are responsible for enforcing the market reform provisions in title XXVII of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act both inside and outside the Marketplaces. Under 2723 and 2761 of the PHS Act and existing regulations, codified at 45 C.F.R. part 150, CMS is responsible for enforcing the provisions of Parts A and B of title XXVII of the PHS Act in a state if a state notifies CMS that it has not enacted legislation to enforce or that it is not otherwise enforcing one or more of the provisions, or if CMS determines that the state is not substantially enforcing the requirements. As necessary, CMS will provide additional information on enforcement. 6

7 collaboration with states. The 2015 process also incorporates some adjusted review standards as well as operational changes. Similar to the QHP certification process in 2014, in 2015, states may choose to conduct reviews of QHP Applications and provide recommendations to CMS on QHP certification determinations. These states will evaluate health plans against QHP certification standards as part of the state s traditional regulatory role for the insurance industry and/or enforcement of Title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act), or otherwise for state purposes. Based on the state s analysis and review, the state will recommend plans for QHP certification to CMS, and CMS will decide whether to certify the plans as QHPs. Similarly, in states not conducting all reviews or making QHP certification recommendations to CMS, CMS anticipates integrating state regulatory activities that the states conduct into its decision-making for QHP certification in the FFMs, provided that states make these determinations and provide information to CMS consistent with federal standards and FFM timelines. These principles underlie the discussion in this Letter about the QHP certification process. CMS will review the state s recommendations or findings to confirm that they are consistent with federal regulatory standards, and will communicate to the state any concerns that would preclude CMS s implementation of the state s recommendations or findings according to the process and timeline outlined below and in other guidance. CMS is responsible for the final QHP certification decisions in each FFM state. Section 1. FFM QHP Application and Certification Process This section describes how CMS, as administrator of the FFMs, will conduct QHP certification when CMS is performing the review and certification of QHPs, including stand-alone dental plans (SADPs). In accordance with 45 C.F.R. part 155 subpart K, CMS will review and approve or deny QHP Applications from issuers that are applying to offer QHPs in an FFM. Table 1.1 presents a highlevel overview of key dates in the FFM QHP certification process. Each major component of the process is described in greater detail in the subsections that follow. For certification of a plan as a QHP for the 2015 benefit year, issuers will be required to submit a complete QHP Application, including for plans that were certified as QHPs for the 2014 benefit year. CMS will review QHP applications against all QHP certification standards for issuers that are currently offering QHPs in the FFM as well as issuers that are applying for QHP certification in the FFM for the first time. CMS also expects that states performing plan management functions in an FFM will review QHP Applications from all issuers applying for certification of a QHP for the 2015 benefit year. For the 2014 certification cycle for the 2015 benefit year, CMS will allow issuers additional time to modify their plan data, in the following manner: 7

8 Ongoing data revision, with specified deadlines for review. After the close of the initial application submission window, issuers will be able to upload revised data templates on an as-needed basis until the final data submission deadline. CMS reviews will occur at pre-defined times during this window and will be based on the QHP data in the system on certain dates. Stand-alone dental plan QHP Application timeline synchronized with medical submissions. Stand-alone and embedded dental plan data submission will follow the same timeline as that of medical plans. We also intend to provide more specific guidance regarding the QHP certification timeline noted below before the beginning of the application submission window. Table 1.1 Key Dates: QHP Certification in an FFM Note: All dates are subject to change. Activity Dates (Approximate) Initial FFM QHP Application Submission Window 5/27/2014 6/27/2014 QHP Application Submission and Review Process FFM Review of QHP Application Submissions as of Initial Submission Deadline 6/30/2014 7/25/ st Correction Notice Sent 7/29/2014 Deadline for Submission of Revised QHP Data for Rereview FFM Reviews of Corrected QHP Application Submissions Received as of August 7 8/7/2014 8/8/2014 8/25/ nd Correction Notice Sent 8/26/2014 Deadline for Final Submission of QHP Application data 9/4/2014 QHP Agreement/ Final Certification FFM Completes Re-review of QHP Application Data; Data Locked Down Limited Data Correction Window Certification Notices and QHP Agreements Sent to Issuers, Agreements Signed, QHP Data Finalized 9/22/2014 9/24/ /6/ /14/ /3/2014 8

9 Activity Dates (Approximate) Open Enrollment 11/15/2014 i. Registration and QHP Application To offer QHPs in FFMs for the 2015 benefit year in states where CMS is performing both the primary review and certification of QHPs, health insurance issuers will complete QHP Applications electronically through the Health Insurance Oversight System (HIOS). Before submitting an application, issuers must gain access to HIOS and request user roles (such as QHP Issuer Submitter and QHP Issuer Validator), and obtain HIOS user IDs. We expect that between May 27 and June 27, 2014, issuers will access the QHP Application in HIOS to submit all information necessary for certification of health plans and stand-alone dental plans as QHPs. The QHP Application will collect both issuer-level information and plan-level benefit and rate data, largely through standardized data templates. Applicants will also be required to attest to their adherence to the regulations set forth in 45 C.F.R. parts 155 and 156, and provide requested supporting documentation. Based on the requirement set forth in 45 C.F.R that QHP issuers maintain responsibility for the compliance of their delegated and downstream entities, these attestations will also reflect that vendors and contractors of the issuer will adhere to applicable requirements. Issuers seeking to offer QHPs must also submit the Unified Rate Review Template (URRT) to CMS via HIOS according to the same timeline. Issuers not seeking to offer any QHPs should consult with state regulators and CMS regarding their rate review obligations. Consistent with the approach in 2014, issuers do not need to submit URRTs for SADPs. ii. Issuer Data Collection and Coordination with States CMS expects that states will review potential QHPs for compliance with all requirements under state law, as well as with market-wide standards established by the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, CMS expects states to review potential QHPs for compliance with essential health benefits (EHB) and actuarial value (AV) standards, among others. 4 CMS expects that state regulators may request access to QHP data templates to facilitate review of potential QHPs. Issuers that wish to prevent CMS from sharing QHP Application and oversight information with 4 We note that, because SADP issuers are only required under federal law to adhere to pediatric dental essential health benefits requirements for SADPs offered through a Marketplace, CMS does not have the same expectation of state review for SADPs offered through the Marketplace if such standards are otherwise not applied under state law. Accordingly, CMS plans to review SADPs for compliance with applicable Affordable Care Act standards. 9

10 the relevant state department of insurance must do so by notifying CMS via at prior to the QHP Application submission deadline. In this case, the issuer may need to share this information directly with the state in addition to sharing it with CMS. We expect that states will establish the timeline, communication process, and resubmission window for any reviews conducted under state authority. Issuers should comply with any statespecific guidelines for review and resubmission related to state-reviewed standards. CMS notes that issuers may be required to submit data to state regulators in addition to that required for QHP certification through the FFM, if required by a state, and must comply with any requests for resubmissions from the state or from CMS in order to be certified. CMS will coordinate with states to ensure that any state-specific review guidelines and procedures are consistent with applicable federal law and operational deadlines. In addition, CMS will conduct outreach to all state departments of insurance at the end of the QHP certification cycle to confirm that all potential QHPs meet applicable state and federal standards, and are approved for sale in the Marketplace. iii. FFM review of QHP Applications Issuers applying for QHP certification in the FFM will submit complete and accurate QHP Applications into HIOS by June 27, Plans for which QHP applications are received after this date and plans for which significant changes to the initial submission are submitted after this date without CMS approval may not be considered for certification. CMS expects to review FFM QHP Applications in two rounds; one between June 30 and July 25, and a second between August 8 and August 25. Following each review period, CMS will send applicants notices summarizing any need for correction identified during CMS s review. Issuers will be able to upload revised QHP data templates and make other necessary changes to QHP Applications in response to CMS s feedback until September 4. Issuers will also be able to make changes based on state feedback and make other minor corrections to their applications, with state approval, on the same timeline. CMS also intends to implement a petition process to receive requests from issuers and review additional requested changes that are particularly significant during this time, such as changes to service area. Requests to make these more substantial changes must be reviewed and approved by CMS and the state prior to submission of an update to the QHP Application. CMS intends to release further guidance on this process. As stated previously, all final QHP data must be submitted by September 4, After this date, issuers will conduct a limited data correction window, where issuers will not be allowed to make further changes to QHP data unless necessary to correct data display errors or align QHPs with products and plans as approved by the state. All such changes must be pre-approved by CMS and the state. CMS expects to review final QHP data, verify and confirm state approval, and inform issuers of its final certification determinations by October 14, CMS intends to provide a 10

11 process through which issuers will be able to review submitted plan data prior (timeline to be provided). Section 2. QHP Certification Process in a State Performing Plan Management Functions in an FFM This section describes how states performing plan management functions in an FFM will conduct QHP certification. Issuers applying in states where CMS is performing all QHP Application review and QHP certification should refer to Section 1 above. In an FFM state where the state is performing plan management functions, issuers will work directly with the state to submit all QHP issuer application data in accordance with state guidance. 5 FFM states performing review of QHP Applications will likely utilize the System for Electronic Rate and Form Filing (SERFF) system to collect QHP Applications from issuers. The state will review QHP Applications for compliance with the standards described in this guidance and will provide a certification recommendation for each proposed plan to CMS. CMS will review and confirm the state s QHP certification recommendations, make final QHP certification decisions, and load certified QHP plans on the Marketplace website. CMS will work closely with states that are performing plan management functions to coordinate this process. As indicated in Table 1.2, the QHP certification process in FFM states where the state is performing plan management functions will align with the process for issuers for which CMS is performing the review. Each major component of the process is described in greater detail in the subsections that follow. We also intend to provide more specific guidance regarding the QHP certification timeline noted below as the application submission period approaches. Table 1.2 Key Dates: QHP Certification in FFM States Where the State is Performing Plan Management Functions Note: All dates are subject to change. Activity Dates (Approximate) Issuers Submit Plan Data to States, States Review Varied 1 st SERFF Data Transfer Deadline 8/8/2014 FFM Reviews Plan Data 8/11/2014-8/25/2014 QHP Application Submission and FFM Notifies States of any Needed Corrections to QHP Data 8/26/ CMS will work with states performing plan management functions in an FFM to ensure that such guidance is consistent with federal regulatory standards and operational timelines. 11

12 Activity Dates (Approximate) Review Process Last date for Issuers to Resubmit Plan Data into SERFF 9/4/ nd SERFF Data Transfer 9/5/2014-9/10/2014 FFM Completes Re-review of Plan Data and State Recommendations 9/22/2014 Limited Data Correction Window 9/24/ /6/2014 QHP Agreement/Final Certification Certification Notices and QHP Agreements Sent to Issuers, Agreements Signed, QHP Data Finalized 10/14/ /3/2014 Open Enrollment 11/15/2014 i. QHP Application and State Review Process An issuer s HIOS issuer ID will be used to link the state and federal records for a given issuer or QHP. Therefore, like an issuer applying in HIOS, an issuer applying to a state via SERFF must access HIOS and obtain the necessary identification numbers and user roles. Issuers in states performing plan management functions in an FFM are to submit QHP Applications, typically in SERFF, according to the timeline set by each state. Each state will define the relevant submission window as well as dates and processes for corrections and resubmissions. Issuers seeking to offer QHPs must submit the URRT to the state, and to CMS via HIOS, on the same timeline as the submission of the QHP Application. Issuers that are applying for QHP certification in states performing plan management functions in an FFM should not submit QHP Applications into HIOS. CMS will provide two defined SERFF transfer windows in order to better coordinate the flow of QHP data from states performing plan management functions in an FFM. The first SERFF transfer will take place by August 8, 2014 and will constitute an initial transfer by each state. QHP data in this transfer do not need to be final, and the plans included in the transfer do not need to be in final, approved status. CMS will review the plan data in the initial transfer, and will notify states of any needed corrections. States will work with issuers to revise their submissions according to CMS and state feedback. The second SERFF transfer is planned to take place between September 5 and September 10, CMS will use the data transferred by September 10 to make final QHP certification decisions based on state recommendations. After this transfer, issuers will not be allowed to make any further changes to QHP data unless necessary to correct data display errors or align QHPs with products and plans approved by the state. All such changes must be pre-approved by 12

13 CMS and the state. CMS intends to provide a process through which issuers will be able to review submitted plan data (timeline to be provided). Section 3. Recertification for 2015 Based on comments received to the Draft 2015 Letter to Issuers, we are including this section on our intended approach to recertification of 2014 QHPs for the 2015 plan year. For the 2015 plan year, CMS s process for recertifying a QHP or SADP that was certified for the 2014 benefit year will largely mirror the 2015 process for certification of a plan that was not a QHP or SADP in While there may be the opportunity for some streamlining for 2014 QHP issuers that submit applications for 2015 certification, issuers seeking recertification will generally resubmit the majority of information required under the 2015 QHP Application for plans that were not QHPs or SADPs in We anticipate moving to a more streamlined recertification process for future plan years. A QHP that was certified in 2014 and that is recertified in 2015 can maintain the same plan and HIOS identification numbers that it used in Additionally, current enrollees in recertified plans will remain enrolled into the new benefit year, as long as those enrollees do not terminate their coverage. If a plan being offered in 2015 is guaranteed renewable under the market-wide guaranteed renewability requirement, 6 meaning that, outside the FFM, 2014 enrollees in the plan would be guaranteed the right to renew the plan for another plan year (subject to the exceptions to guaranteed renewability), and that plan was certified as a QHP in 2014, then the plan being offered in 2015 as a renewal of the 2014 QHP may be recertified if it continues to meet the certification criteria. For purposes of SADPs, we will apply the same standard, treating the SADP as if it were a QHP subject to guaranteed renewability. In the regulation that is being released simultaneously with this letter, we are proposing to specify circumstances in which a plan is undergoing a uniform modification and, therefore, is guaranteed renewable, as opposed to being withdrawn and a new plan filed, in which case, the plan would not be guaranteed renewable. If that regulation is finalized as proposed, the criteria in that regulation regarding guaranteed renewability would apply in the context of recertification as well. 6 In the regulation that is being released simultaneously with this letter, we are proposing to specify circumstances in which a plan is undergoing a uniform modification and, therefore, is guaranteed renewable, as opposed to being withdrawn and a new plan filed, in which case, the plan would not be guaranteed renewable. If that regulation is finalized as proposed, the criteria in that regulation regarding guaranteed renewability would apply in the context of recertification as well. 13

14 Section 4. Review of Rates This section addresses how CMS will work with states to review rate increases for QHPs when certifying plans as QHPs for participation in the FFM. States performing plan management functions in an FFM may use a similar approach. The approach for stand-alone dental plans is discussed in Section 8. i. Consideration of Rate Increases Regulations at 45 C.F.R require a Marketplace to consider all rate increases when certifying plans as QHPs. For the 2015 benefit year, CMS will consider issuers data and actuarial justifications provided in the Unified Rate Review Template (URRT), other information submitted as part of a filing under an Effective Rate Review program and any recommendations provided to CMS by the applicable state regulator about patterns or practices of excessive or unjustified rate increases and whether or not particular issuers should be excluded from participation in the Marketplace. In future years, CMS will also take into account other factors such as rate growth inside and outside the Marketplace as required by the Affordable Care Act. CMS does not plan to duplicate reviews that a state is already conducting to enforce state law, and will take into consideration reviews the agency has conducted on behalf of a state for those states that do not have Effective Rate Review programs. CMS anticipates integrating state and other CMS rate reviews into its QHP certification processes, provided that states provide information to CMS consistent with federal standards and agreed-upon timelines. For rate increases not being reviewed by a state under an Effective Rate Review program or CMS on behalf of a state (for those states that do not have Effective Rate Review programs): The QHP issuer s justification for all rate increases will be captured in the submission of Part I of the rate filing justification (URRT). To ensure consumer transparency, issuers must publish information from Part I of the rate filing justification by either: (1) posting a link on the issuer s website to the Marketplace s website (or HealthCare.gov), or (2) posting the information on the issuer s website. ii. Review of QHP Rates Rates that are too high or too low could have undesirable consequences for consumers. If rates are too high, consumers may be overpaying for coverage. If rates are too low, consumers may purchase a plan in which the pricing is not sustainable over time, potentially leading to significant rate increases in future years. Such increases could be disruptive to consumers who remain in the plan and to consumers who switch to more effectively priced plans but experience changes in prescription drug formularies or provider networks. In addition, QHP rates 14

15 specifically, the rate for the second lowest cost silver plan directly impact the value of premium tax credits as well as other federal outlays. As detailed above, CMS does not plan to duplicate reviews that a state is already conducting as a matter of state law. CMS intends to implement a process that, in collaboration with existing state Effective Rate Review programs, will help ensure that QHP rates are reasonable and that, accordingly, offering the QHP through the FFM would be in the interest of consumers. Specifically, as it did in 2014, CMS will conduct an outlier analysis on QHP rates to identify rates that are relatively high or low compared to other QHP rates in the same rating area. CMS recognizes that the identification of a QHP rate as an outlier does not necessarily indicate inappropriate rate development. CMS will notify the appropriate state entity of the results of its outlier identification process and will consider the state s assessment of the plan s rates when determining whether, based on its rates, certifying the QHP to be offered on the FFM would be in the interest of consumers. Section 5. OPM Certification of Multi-State Plans This section provides additional guidance for health insurance issuers seeking to offer multi- State plans in FFMs and State-based Marketplaces (SBMs). The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for implementing the Multi- State Plan (MSP) Program as required under section 1334 of the Affordable Care Act. In accordance with section 1334(d) of the Affordable Care Act, MSP options offered by MSP issuers under contract with OPM are deemed to be certified by a Marketplace. OPM anticipates that the process for MSP issuers to participate in a Marketplace for the 2015 benefit year will largely mirror that used for Issuers seeking to offer MSP coverage must apply to participate via OPM s online application portal. OPM will evaluate issuer applications and determine which issuers are qualified to become MSP issuers. OPM works closely with states in reviewing benefits and rates to achieve its goals of offering more choice for consumers and maintaining a level playing field for all issuers within a state. OPM s contract with each MSP issuer identifies each MSP option that the issuer will offer and in what state it will be offered. Each MSP option so identified is deemed to be certified by OPM to be offered through the Marketplace(s) operating in those states. In addition, the MSP Program contract sets forth performance requirements for MSP issuers. For more information on requirements for MSP issuers, issuers should visit OPM will post specific instructions regarding the 2015 application timeline and process when available. The 2015 MSP Program Call Letter describes OPM program priorities and is available at 15

16 Section 6. Certification of Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs) Consistent with the statute and the approach applied for 2014, CO-OPs are expected to apply for QHP certification using the same processes applied to other QHP issuers. CHAPTER 2. QUALIFIED HEALTH PLAN AND STAND-ALONE DENTAL PLAN CERTIFICATION STANDARDS Section 1. Licensure and Good Standing This section describes how CMS will conduct QHP certification and recertification. States performing plan management functions in an FFM may use a similar approach. Consistent with 45 C.F.R (b)(4), each QHP issuer must be licensed and in good standing in each state in which it applies to offer QHPs for the applicable market, product type, and service area. CMS interprets the good standing requirement to mean that the issuer is in compliance with all applicable state solvency requirements and is in good standing in the state in relation to compliance with state laws and regulations. Applicable state licenses or certificates of authority will need to be provided with the QHP Application as supporting documentation. In addition, for the 2015 benefit year, CMS will require issuers to submit a State Certification Form. The issuer will need to indicate on this form that it is licensed and in good standing in each state in which it is applying to offer QHPs. The form must further include a certification from the applicable state insurance regulator that the issuer is licensed and in good standing in the state, including meeting state solvency requirements. Issuers applying for QHP certification must be able to demonstrate state licensure by no later than the first resubmission period during the QHP certification process, August 10, In addition to requiring state certification of good standing, CMS will consider any complaints it receives and other QHP issuer oversight findings that occur during the 2014 benefit year, including state enforcement findings, in its determination of whether an issuer s offering of a plan is in the interest of consumers. CMS will consult with the applicable state on these findings. Section 2. Service Area This section describes how CMS will conduct QHP certification and recertification in an FFM. States performing plan management functions in an FFM may use a similar approach. Consistent with regulations at 45 C.F.R (a), the Marketplace must ensure that each service area of a QHP covers a minimum geographic area that is at least the entire geographic area of a county, or a group of counties defined by the Marketplace, unless the Marketplace determines that serving a smaller geographic area is necessary, nondiscriminatory, and in the best interest of the qualified individuals and employers. The Marketplace must also ensure that 16

17 the service area of a QHP has been established without regard to racial, ethnic, language, or health status-related factors as specified under section 2705(a) of the PHS Act, or other factors that exclude specific high utilizing, high cost or medically-underserved populations. For the 2015 benefit year, CMS will review requests for service areas that serve a geographic area smaller than a county to ensure that each service area meets the above regulatory standards, particularly with respect to ensuring that the establishment of this partial county service area is not discriminatory. In the QHP Application process, CMS considers the service area of a plan to be the county or set of counties (or partial counties) that is covered by that particular plan. Any change to the list of counties associated with a particular plan is considered a change in the service area, even if the issuer offers other plans or products in the counties (or partial counties) in question. For the 2015 benefit year, QHP issuers will not be allowed to change their service area after their initial data submission except via petition to CMS. Petitions for service area changes must follow a CMSprescribed format that will be detailed in future guidance and will only be allowed with state approval. Changes to service areas will only be approved under very limited circumstances, such as: To address limitations in provider contracting: issuers will need to provide substantial documentation of their contracting efforts in the geographic areas dropped, including lists of providers with whom the issuer attempted to contract and the contracts offered. Expansions at the request of the state and/or CMS to address an unmet consumer need. To address a data error in the issuer s initial Service Area Template submission: issuers will need to provide significant evidence documenting the error, including evidence in other parts of the QHP Application indicating an intent to cover a different area and/or a mismatch with the service area in the issuer s form filing. Any additional circumstances would be severely limited and determined on a case by case basis and only based on state approval and significant evidence of necessity and the best interest of the consumer. CMS will not allow changes to service area after the final data submission date. Section 3. Network Adequacy This section describes how CMS will conduct QHP certification and recertification. States performing plan management functions in an FFM may use a similar approach. This section includes changes from the approach for network adequacy that were in the Draft 2015 Letter to Issuers. Pursuant to 45 C.F.R (a)(2), an issuer of a QHP that has a provider network must maintain a network that is sufficient in number and types of providers, including providers that specialize in mental health and substance use disorder services, to assure that all services will be 17

18 accessible to enrollees without unreasonable delay. All issuers applying for QHP certification will need to attest that they meet this standard as part of the certification/recertification process. Unlike the certification process for benefit year 2014, CMS will no longer simply utilize issuer accreditation status, identify states with review processes at least as stringent as those identified in 45 C.F.R (a), or collect network access plans as part of its evaluation of plans network adequacy. Rather, CMS will assess provider networks using a reasonable access standard, and will identify networks that fail to provide access without unreasonable delay as required by 45 C.F.R (a)(2). In order to determine whether an issuer meets the reasonable access standard, CMS will focus most closely on those areas which have historically raised network adequacy concerns. These areas may include the following: Hospital systems, Mental health providers, Oncology providers, and Primary care providers. If CMS determines that an issuer s network is inadequate under the reasonable access review standard, CMS will notify the issuer of the identified problem area(s) and will consider the issuer s response in assessing whether the issuer has met the regulatory requirement and prior to making the certification or recertification determination. CMS will share information and analysis and coordinate with states which are conducting network adequacy reviews. Additional technical guidance regarding the collection method for a plan s provider list will be provided as part of the certification/recertification instructions. CMS also intends to use information learned during the QHP Application process to assist in its articulation of time and distance or other standards for FFM QHP networks that CMS intends to reflect in future rulemaking. CMS will share its network adequacy findings with states and will incorporate state input into its network adequacy review process. CMS will also continue to monitor network adequacy, for example, via complaint tracking, to determine whether the QHP s network(s) continues to meet these certification standards. For future years, CMS is further considering appropriate formats for collection of provider network data, which would both enable CMS to review provider network adequacy and allow for the creation of a search engine function for consumers to find particular providers and provider types on HealthCare.gov. Section 4. Essential Community Providers This section describes how CMS plans to conduct QHP certification and recertification. States performing plan management functions in an FFM may use a similar approach. This section also discusses payment requirements for services provided by Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). 18

19 Essential community providers (ECPs) include providers that serve predominantly low-income and medically underserved individuals, and specifically include providers described in section 340B of the PHS Act and section 1927(c)(1)(D)(i)(IV) of the Social Security Act (SSA). At 45 C.F.R , CMS establishes requirements for inclusion of ECPs in QHP provider networks and provides an alternate standard for issuers that provide a majority of covered services through physicians employed by the issuer or a single contracted medical group. Indian health providers are included among ECPs, as reflected in table 2.1. i. Evaluation of Network Adequacy with respect to ECPs Because the number and types of ECPs available vary significantly by location, CMS intends to evaluate QHP Applications for sufficient inclusion of ECPs for the 2015 benefit year against the ECP inclusion expectations described below. Specifically, CMS will consider a QHP issuer in compliance with the ECP guideline and will not pursue an enforcement action against an issuer with regards to meeting the ECP regulatory standard if it satisfies the ECP guidelines described below. ECP Guideline: An application for QHP certification that adheres to the general ECP inclusion standard does not need to provide further documentation. For benefit year 2015, we will utilize a general ECP enforcement guideline whereby if an application demonstrates that at least 30 percent of available ECPs in each plan s service area participate in the provider network, we will consider the issuer to have satisfied the regulatory standard. In addition, and as required for the prior year, we expect that the issuer offer contracts in good faith to: All available Indian health providers in the service area, to include the Indian Health Service, Indian Tribes, Tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations, using the recommended model QHP Addendum 7 for Indian health providers developed by CMS; and At least one ECP in each ECP category (see Table 2.1) in each county in the service area, where an ECP in that category is available. As part of the issuer s QHP application, we expect that the issuer list the contract offers that it has extended to all available Indian health providers and at least one ECP in each ECP category in each county in the service area. To be offered in good faith, a contract should offer terms that a willing, similarly-situated, non-ecp provider would accept or has accepted. We would expect issuers to be able to provide verification of such offers if CMS chooses to verify the offers. 7 The model QHP Addendum for Indian health providers is available at 19

20 If an issuer s application does not satisfy the 30 percent ECP guideline described above, the issuer would be required to include as part of its application a satisfactory narrative justification describing how the issuer s provider network(s), as currently designed, provides an adequate level of service for low-income and medically underserved enrollees and how the issuer plans to increase ECP participation in the issuer s provider network(s) in future years, as necessary. An issuer that would have met only the 2014 minimum expectation standard option if the option had been extended for the 2015 benefit year will still be considered for QHP certification for the 2015 benefit year, contingent on the issuer s satisfactory narrative justification described above. As only one issuer submitted a justification for the 2014 benefit year as a means to satisfy the 20 percent ECP threshold, we anticipate that issuers will readily be able to contract with at least 30 percent of ECPs in a service area and that issuers will largely be able to satisfy this without having to submit written justification. At a minimum, such narrative justification would include the following: Number of contracts offered to ECPs for the 2015 benefit year; Number of additional contracts issuer expects to offer for the 2015 benefit year and the timeframe of those planned negotiations; Names of the ECP hospitals and FQHCs to which the issuer has offered contracts, but an agreement with the providers has not yet been reached; Attestation that the issuer has satisfied the good faith contracting requirement with respect to offering contracts to all available Indian health providers, and one ECP in each major ECP category per county, where an ECP in that category is available; and Contingency plans for how, absent participation of the available ECP and Indian health providers, the plan will be able to provide adequate care to enrollees who might otherwise be cared for by relevant ECP providers. For example, if available Hemophilia Treatment Centers, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program providers or Indian health providers are missing from the network(s), the Application must explain how its target populations will be served. Examples: Issuer A proposes a service area in which 80 ECPs are available. Issuer A s network includes 35 ECPs, and Issuer A attests that it has offered good faith contracts to available Indian health providers and one ECP in each major ECP category per county, where an ECP in that category is available. Issuer A would meet the ECP standard; no additional documentation would be required. Issuer B also proposes a service area in which 80 ECPs (including 10 Indian health providers) are available. Issuer B s network includes 20 ECPs, which would not satisfy 20

21 the 30 percent ECP guideline. Issuer B provides a narrative justification that includes the following: o Explanation for why its network includes only 20 ECPs and how it will ensure service for low-income and medically underserved enrollees; o Attestation that the issuer has satisfied the good faith contracting requirement with respect to offering contracts to all available Indian health providers and one ECP in each major ECP category per county, where an ECP in that category is available; o Number of contracts offered to ECPs for the 2015 benefit year; o Number of additional contracts issuer expects to offer for the 2015 benefit year and the timeframe of those planned negotiations; o Names of the hospitals and FQHCs to which the issuer has offered contracts, but the providers have not yet accepted; and o A description of how care will be provided to specific populations (e.g., American Indians/Alaska Natives, persons with HIV, persons with hemophilia, etc.) that would otherwise be served by ECPs that are missing in the service area. Under this general ECP standard, issuer B would be considered for QHP certification, despite not satisfying the 30 percent ECP guideline, based on the quantity of contracts being offered and the quality of the justification offered for not yet meeting this guideline. CMS would take into account factors and circumstances identified in the ECP Supplemental Response Form, 8 along with an explanation of how the issuer will provide access to low-income and underserved populations. Additionally, justifications that include verification of contracts offered in good faith, that include terms that a willing, similarly-situated, non-ecp provider would accept or has accepted, would be considered toward satisfaction of the ECP guideline. To assist issuers in identifying these providers, CMS published a non-exhaustive list of available ECPs based on data maintained by CMS and other federal agencies, which issuers may use to assess their satisfaction of the ECP guideline. This non-exhaustive list is available at: For providers on CMS s non-exhaustive ECP list (including all Indian health providers), issuers would contract with the corporate entity named on the CMS list for that provider to be counted as an ECP. Individual practitioners having the same address as another ECP on the CMS list would not be counted as ECPs for purposes of meeting this standard. Issuers will indicate which ECPs are included in their provider network(s) by populating a template as part of the QHP Application. CMS will provide detailed instructions to support 8 More information on the supplemental response can be found on the CCIIO website at: 21

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