Feds to employers: Hospital coverage is no longer optional

Federal health officials are moving to stop some employers from cutting hospital coverage in the health insurance they provide under ObamaCare.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that firms with 50 or more employees must offer hospital benefits as part of their workers' health plans in order to comply with the law.

"A plan that excludes substantial coverage for inpatient hospital and physician services is not a health plan in any meaningful sense," the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in proposed regulations released Friday.

"An employer-sponsored plan, while not required to cover all [essential health benefits], nonetheless must offer coverage with minimum value at least roughly comparable to that of a bronze plan offered on an exchange."

The administration offered the clarification after an online "minimum value" calculator provided by HHS to industry approved plans that did not include hospital benefits.

The apparent mistake led to a glut of marketing for low-cost plans and several commitments by employers to use them in 2015. The stories were reported by Kaiser Health News.