[Excerpt] The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) includes many provisions that apply to health plans offered in the private health insurance market. The private market often is described as having three segments: the non-group, small-group, and large-group markets; and many of the ACA’s provisions focus specifically on the non-group and small-group insurance markets. These reforms are intended to address perceived failures in those markets, such as limited access to coverage and higher costs of coverage relative to the large-group market plans, and to provide some parity with the large-group market. For example, benefit coverage in non-group and small-group market health plans generally was perceived to be limited in comparison to benefit coverage in large-group market health plans. Thus, to provide some similarity to plans in the large-group market, the ACA requires non-group and small-group health plans to offer the essential health benefits (EHB), which is a core package of health care services.
The EHB are one of the three components of the EHB package. The EHB package requires plans to (1) cover certain benefits (i.e., the essential health benefits); (2) comply with specific cost- sharing limitations; and (3) meet a certain generosity level.
This report provides an overview of the first component of the EHB package—the essential health benefits. The report examines how the EHB are defined, regulations related to the EHB, state variation in the EHB, applicability of the EHB to health plans, and how the EHB interact with other ACA provisions.