Patient Rights under Policies or Plans of Health Insurance Coverage
See bold sections below:
A. Prohibition on the Use of Gag Clauses–Applies to HMO Coverage. Patients have a right to talk freely with health care professionals about their health, medical conditions, and any treatment options that are available, including those not covered by their health plan. R.S. 22:215.18(B) prohibits a managed care plan from adopting any requirement that interferes with the ability of a health care professional to communicate with a patient regarding his or her health care. This statutory protection also includes communications regarding treatment options and medical alternatives, or other coverage arrangements. The managed care plan is only allowed to prohibit a health care professional from soliciting alternative coverage arrangements for the purpose of securing financial gain by the health care professional.
Prohibited Financial Incentives
B. Prohibition on Incentives to Restrict, Delay or Deny Medically Necessary Care–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage. Patients have a right to receive medically necessary and appropriate services covered under a managed care plan. R.S. 22:215.19 prohibits managed care plans from offering any financial incentives to health care professionals to deny, reduce, limit, or delay specific, medically necessary, and appropriate services.
Liability-Insurer Shifting to Physician
C. Holding Managed Care Plans Liable for their Actions, Omissions, or Activities–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage. Managed care plans are responsible for their actions, activities or omissions that result in harm to the patient. R.S. 22:215.18(G) prohibits managed care plans from transferring their liability related to activities, actions or omissions of the plan to a health care professional treating the insured. This right does not relieve health care professionals of their responsibilities to appropriately practice within the scope of license, certification, or registration.
D. Guaranteed Direct Access to Obstetricians/Gynecologists–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage. Women have a right to see an Obstetrician or Gynecologist for routine care. R.S. 22:215.17 requires health insurance coverage to include direct access to these health care professionals without prior authorization. In addition, health insurance coverage is required to include up to two annual routine visits and follow up treatment within 60 days of either visit if a related condition is diagnosed or treated during the visits. This requirement also applies to pregnancy related care if covered by the policy or plan.
E. Requirement for Appropriate Access to Covered Medical Services–Applies to HMO Coverage
1. Formal managed care plans operated by health maintenance organizations are required to maintain an adequate number of health care professionals to serve plan participants. Covered services must be provided within a reasonable period of time once ordered or prescribed. R.S. 22:2004, 2005, 2013, 2016, and 2021 establish requirements for HMO plans to document that their networks of primary care physicians and specialists are adequate. HMOs are allowed to use point of service options to expand networks and assure access to plan participants.
2. Other health insurance coverage is only allowed to offer managed care as a coverage option. These plans must offer traditional payment of medical claims based on the terms of the policy for deductibles and co-insurance.
F. Confidentiality of Medical Records–Applies to HMO Coverage
1. Any data or information pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment, or health of any enrollee or potential enrollee obtained from such persons or from any provider by any formal managed care plan shall be held in confidence and shall not be disclosed to any person except:
a. to the extent that it may be necessary to carry out the purposes of operating a formal managed care plan as permitted by law;
b. upon the express consent of the enrollee or potential enrollee;
c. pursuant to statute or court order for the production of evidence or the discovery thereof;
d. in the event of a claim or litigation between such person and the formal managed care plan wherein such data or information is pertinent.
2. A formal managed care plan shall be entitled to claim any statutory privileges against such disclosure which the provider who furnished such information to the formal managed care plan is entitled.
G. Prohibit Unreasonable Denial of Emergency Care–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage
1. Any managed care plan that includes emergency medical services shall provide coverage and shall subsequently pay health care professionals for emergency medical services provided to a covered patient who presents himself/herself with an emergency medical condition.
2. No health insurance plan shall retrospectively deny or reduce payment to health care professionals for emergency medical services of a covered patient even if it is determined that the emergency medical condition initially presented is later identified through screening not to be an actual emergency, except in the following cases:
a. material misrepresentation, fraud, omission, or clerical error;
b. any payment reductions due to applicable co-payments, co-insurance, or deductibles that may be the responsibility of the covered patient;
c. cases in which the covered patient does not meet the emergency medical condition definition, unless the covered patient has been referred to the emergency department by the insured’s primary care physician or other agent acting on behalf of the health insurance plan.
H. Appeal/Grievance Procedures for Denials of Coverage–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage
1. Formal managed care plans operated by health maintenance organizations are required to have an administrative appeal or grievance process for patients. R.S. 22:2022 requires these plans to submit their appeal/grievance procedures to the Department of Insurance to verify the process or procedures used are reasonable and meet the intent of the statute.
2. In addition, where any insured patient is denied benefits under a health insurance coverage plan, a request can be made to the Department of Insurance for investigation of the denial. Where the denial is valid, the insured is so notified. Where the denial is erroneous, the health insurance coverage plan is required to institute corrective action and may be subject to fines and penalties if a statutory violation has occurred.
I. Guaranteed Continuation of Group Insurance–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage
1. R.S. 22:215.13 guarantees Louisiana residents who lose their eligibility for coverage under a group health insurance policy or plan, the right to maintain such coverage in force for up to 12 months. This guaranteed continuation of group health insurance does not include accident only coverage, specific disease coverage, limited benefit coverage for dental, vision care or any benefits provided in addition to the basic hospital, surgical, or major medical benefits of the policy. This means that additional or optional insurance coverage purchased is not guaranteed to be provided during this 12-month continuation period. This continuation of group coverage right is guaranteed for up to one year so long as the following conditions are met:
a. the individual is not eligible for any other group health coverage plan or government sponsored health plan, such as Medicare and Medicaid;
b. the individual timely pays the full monthly premium to keep coverage in force;
c. the individual was not terminated from coverage for fraud or failure to pay any required contribution for the group insurance, and continues to meet the group policy’s terms and conditions other than membership in that original group;
d. all dependents covered under the group policy or plan continue to be covered;
e. the group policy has not been terminated or the employer has withdrawn participation in a multiple employer group policy; and
f. the individual continues to reside within the service area of the plan in the event that such group coverage is provided by a Health Maintenance Organization.
2. This right is not automatic and requires the employee or member who is losing coverage to make a written election of continuation on a form furnished by the group policyholder and pay for the first month’s coverage prior to the date that coverage is being terminated. Written notification of termination must be provided to the individual in advance to allow election of this right.
3. Special continuation rights are provided to a surviving spouse of an individual who was covered by a group health insurance policy or plan at the time of death and is age 55 or older. Under Louisiana law the surviving spouse is guaranteed the right to continue such group coverage in effect until eligible for any other group coverage. The surviving spouse is also allowed to provide coverage to all dependents that were covered under the deceased spouse’s policy or plan at the time of death so long as they remain eligible under the policy.
J. Guaranteed Renewal of Health Insurance Coverage–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage
1. Under Louisiana law, once health insurance coverage has been purchased, the insurer cannot cancel the coverage unless one of the following conditions exists:
a. failure to pay premiums or contributions in accordance with the terms of the policy;
b. failure to comply with a material plan provision relating to employer contribution or group participation rules;
c. performance of an act or practice that constitutes fraud or the intentional misrepresentation of a material fact under the terms of coverage;
d. the policyholder no longer resides, lives, or works in the service area in the event the coverage is provided under a formal managed care plan operated by a Health Maintenance Organization;
e. the policyholder’s coverage is purchased through a bona-fide association plan and the policyholder is no longer eligible to participate in such association;
f. the insurance company is no longer offering the type of coverage purchased and offers to replace the policy with any other type of similar coverage being marketed within 90 days of renewal; or
g. the insurance company is leaving the market and will no longer be selling any group and/or individual health insurance products in Louisiana for a period of at least five years. In such instances the insurer must give each policyholder 180 days advance notice in writing before the policy is terminated. All termination notices must be filed and approved by the Department of Insurance prior to issuance.
K. Limits on Preexisting Medical Condition Exclusions from Coverage–Applies To HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage. Under Louisiana law, a health insurance plan is allowed to exclude medical conditions from coverage for a limited period of time. All policies now being sold are prohibited from excluding coverage for preexisting medical conditions for more than 12 months. Regardless of the type of coverage (group or individual), health plans are not allowed to apply an exclusion of coverage based on a preexisting medical condition for more than 12 months.
1. Group Coverage. The medical conditions that can be excluded from coverage are limited to those that were diagnosed or treated during the six month period prior to the day coverage begins under the policy. Any condition that was not being treated during the prior six months cannot be excluded from coverage.
2. Individual Coverage. The medical conditions that can be excluded from coverage are limited to those that were diagnosed, treated or reasonably should have been treated during the 12 month period prior to the day coverage begins under the policy. Any condition that was not diagnosed, treated, or reasonably should have been treated during the prior 12 months cannot be excluded from coverage.
L. Guaranteed Portability Protections–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage
1. Individuals who are moving their health coverage from one employment situation to another or from one group plan to another are guaranteed the following rights provided they have enrolled in the new plan within 63 days of termination from the prior plan:
a. if the new plan imposes a 12-month preexisting exclusionary period, the individual must be given one month’s credit for each month of continuous coverage under the prior plan. If the individual had 12 or more months of continuous coverage under the prior plan, the preexisting exclusionary period has been satisfied. If the individual had six months of continuous coverage under the prior plan, the preexisting exclusionary period is reduced by six months;
b. if the new employer imposes an exclusionary or waiting period for employees before coverage can begin, such periods do not count as a break in coverage for applying portability rights;
c. during any exclusionary or waiting period, no premiums can be charged to the individual;
d. during any exclusionary or waiting period the individual may maintain their prior coverage if eligible under state continuation of coverage rights, federal COBRA rights, or through purchase of an individual policy;
e. individuals, who had at least 18 months of prior coverage under a group plan, have exhausted or are not eligible for state continuation rights or COBRA rights, are guaranteed access to individual health insurance coverage through the Louisiana Health Insurance Association.
2. Any Louisiana resident who has individual health insurance coverage is guaranteed credit for prior individual coverage when replacing coverage if the insurance plan is applying the prior insurance policy’s lifetime benefit usage against the replacement policy. Residents can waive credit for prior coverage to avoid any reduction in the lifetime benefit limit of the replacement coverage. However, state law no longer allows the sale of any policy of insurance that excludes coverage in excess of 18 months.
M. Prohibiting Discrimination Against Individuals Based on Health Status–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage
1. State and federal law prohibit any group health coverage plan from discriminating against individuals based on their health status. This means that an individual’s medical status cannot be used to determine eligibility to join a group health plan with certain exceptions. Plans are specifically prohibited from adopting any rules for eligibility or continued eligibility based on any of the following health status related factors:
a. health status;
b. medical condition, including both physical and mental illness;
c. claims experience;
d. receipt of health care;
e. medical history;
f. genetic information;
g. evidence of insurability, including conditions arising out of acts of domestic violence; and
2. A plan’s rules for eligibility to enroll under a plan also include rules defining any applicable waiting periods for such enrollment. This means that the plan may only apply exclusionary or waiting period uniformly based on date of hire for all eligible employees. No exclusionary or waiting periods are allowed after coverage begins and premiums are being collected from the insured.
N. Prohibition on Use of Prenatal and Genetic Tests by Health Insurance Plans–Applies to HMO and Major Medical Insurance Coverage. State law prohibits health insurance plans from requiring any individual to take genetic tests or prenatal tests prior to being offered coverage. Plans are also prohibited from requesting release of any genetic or prenatal test results or using such information in the determination of benefits or rates for an insured.