HHS announced final regulations setting limits on the pre-existing condition exclusions that can be imposed by group health plans on workers who lose their jobs or change jobs. The regulations, which also apply to workers' family members, implement provisions set forth by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Under the final provisions, to be published Thursday in the Federal Register, health plans will be required to offer an immediate "special enrollment" to some individuals who lose their insurance. The health plans also must provide individuals with information about their HIPAA rights. HHS and the Labor and Treasury departments also are publishing proposals that would extend the period for individuals to exercise their HIPAA rights if they are not promptly notified they have lost coverage. Individuals who are not covered under a group plan because they take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act also will be protected by HIPAA. The final regulations will become effective for plan years starting on or after July 1, 2005. -- by Tony Fong
HHS sets final regs on access to coverage
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