Mini-med plans must notify customers of limited coverage

Health insurers offering so-called “mini med” plans must notify customers in plain language and within 60 days that their insurance plans offer extremely limited benefits, according to new Department of Health and Human Services guidance released Thursday.

“Guidance issued today ensures that consumers in plans with low annual limits are notified of the quality of their health plan so that they can make informed decisions about whether mini-med coverage is right for them,” HHS said.

Many chain restaurants and retailers offer low-cost, low-benefit plans — some worth just $2,000 per year — that will be phased out by the 2014 because their annual limits fall well below requirements included in the healthcare reform law. However, HHS has granted more than 200 waivers exempting these plans from new annual limit requirements under the idea that limited coverage is better than no coverage at all.

However, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) criticized the mini-med plans during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week, saying that they are falsely advertised as insurance.

“It gives people a false sense of security,” Rockefeller said. “It lets them think they have health insurance when they really don't. By the time they realize they don't have real health insurance, it's too late."