HHS issued a final rule on Wednesday that includes language that will increase the number of drugs eligible for reimbursement by insurers under the Affordable Care Act's essential health benefits requirements. Under the final rule, insurers must cover at least one drug per therapeutic area or the same number of drugs in each category and class as specified in the state benchmark plan, whichever is greater. The rule also states that a health plan "must have procedures in place that allow an enrollee to request and gain access to clinically appropriate drugs not covered by the health plan." The language on coverage requirements for drugs is virtually identical to that included in the proposed rule in November.
In response to comments expressing concerns about the cost of the requirement, HHS said it believes the policy "reflects drug coverage in a typical employer plan and will have a negligible effect on premiums." The agency added that the policy will be a "transition" for the first two plan or policy years starting in 2014 -- when ACA is slated to come into effect -- and that it "will study and take into considerations the effects this policy, if any, have on changing typical drug coverage in the market."