HHS releases new labeling rules for insurance

The Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday released new guidelines for the standardized information that all insurance plans will have to provide under the healthcare reform law.

The law requires insurers to provide a uniform explanation of benefits and a standardized glossary of insurance terms. HHS released a blank version of the forms that insurers will have to provide.

“Today, many consumers don’t have easy access to information in plain English to help them understand the differences in the coverage and benefits provided by different health plans,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that will change.”

The summary of benefits is intended to help consumers make an "apples-to-apples" comparison between plans. It includes standardized breakdowns of how much certain treatments would cost — for example, a visit to a primary-care doctor, or generics and brand-name drugs.

The proposed form is based on a draft crafted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. NAIC officials said they're pleased with the process and the regulations that HHS proposed.

"We are pleased that consumers are going to have clear easy access to information about the policies that they're considering," Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said.

— This post was updated at 4:08 p.m.