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DOL Report Flunks a Major Test

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, May 4, 2011

Last month the Department of Labor released a report in that under-the-radar way that makes you immediately wonder what's up.

These days almost any healthcare news worthy of a Department of Health and Human Services press release proudly proclaims yet another terrific program that is cutting costs, improving safety, insuring more people, etc. etc.

Selected Medical Benefits: A Report from the Department of Labor to the Department of Health and Human Services should have been released with that type of fanfare. After all, there's a line in the Affordable Care Act that specifically requires the Secretary of Labor to "conduct a survey of employer-sponsored coverage to determine the benefits typically covered by employers, and to report the results of the survey to the Secretary of Health and Human Services."

This information will be used by HHS to help identify the essential health benefits that should be included in the health insurance plans scheduled to be offered by health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014. Insurers in the HIEs, and in the individual and small group markets, will be required to offer benefits consistent with what employers typically offer.

That sounds important to me, like the type of report HHS would want to make sure received press coverage. Maybe the information it contained wasn't quite up to the level of a conference call with Secretary Sebelius, but this baby didn't even rate a decent press release. Instead, HHS put out a 4-paragraph press release that thanked the DOL for the report and then went on to talk about how exciting it is that Institute of Medicine is working on its own set of essential health benefits.

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