State Law

MA. General Laws-Part I-Title XXII-Chapter 176O. Health Insurance Consumer Protections

08/08/2023 Massachusetts Section 13

Formal internal grievance process; expedited resolution policy

State Medical Necessity Appeals-Deadlines

See bold sections below:

(a) A carrier or utilization review organization shall maintain a formal internal grievance process that is compliant with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, as amended from time to time, as well as with any rules, regulations or guidance applicable thereto, and such formal internal grievance process shall provide for adequate consideration and timely resolution of grievances, which shall include but not be limited to: (1) a system for maintaining records of each grievance filed by an insured or on his behalf, and responses thereto, for a period of seven years, which records shall be subject to inspection by the commissioner; (2) the provision of a clear, concise and complete description of the carrier’s formal internal grievance process and the procedures for obtaining external review pursuant to section 14 with each notice of an adverse determination; (3) the carrier’s toll–free telephone number for assisting insureds in resolving such grievances and the consumer assistance toll–free telephone number maintained by the office of patient protection; (4) a written acknowledgement of the receipt of a grievance within 15 days and a written resolution of each grievance within 30 days from receipt thereof; and (5) a procedure to accept grievances by telephone, in person, by mail, or by electronic means, provided that an oral grievance made by an insured shall be reduced to writing by the carrier and a copy thereof forwarded to the insured by the carrier within 48 hours of receipt. The time limits established by this paragraph may be waived or extended by mutual agreement of the insured and the carrier.

(b) The formal internal grievance process maintained by a carrier or utilization review organization shall provide for an expedited resolution of a grievance concerning a carrier’s coverage or provision of immediate and urgently needed services. Said expedited resolution policy shall include, but not be limited to:

(i) a resolution before an insured’s discharge from a hospital if the grievance is submitted by an insured who is an inpatient in a hospital;

(ii) provisions for the automatic reversal of decisions denying coverage for services or durable medical equipment, pending the outcome of the appeals process, within 48 hours, or earlier for durable medical equipment at the option of the physician responsible for treatment or proposed treatment of the covered patient, of receipt of certification by said physician that, in the physician’s opinion, the service or use of durable medical equipment at issue in a grievance or appeal is medically necessary, that a denial of coverage for such services or durable medical equipment would create a substantial risk of serious harm to the patient, and that the risk of that harm is so immediate that the provision of such services or durable medical equipment should not await the outcome of the normal appeal or grievance process, but, in the event said physician exercises the option of automatic reversal earlier than 48 hours for durable medical equipment, he must further certify as to the specific, immediate and severe harm that will result to the patient absent action within the 48 hour time period;

(iii) a resolution within 5 days from the receipt of such grievance if submitted by an insured with a terminal illness; and

(iv) a resolution of a claim involving urgently needed services within 72 hours.

If the expedited review process affirms the denial of coverage or treatment to an insured with a terminal illness, the carrier shall provide the insured, within five business days of the decision (1) a statement setting forth the specific medical and scientific reasons for denying coverage or treatment; (2) a description of alternative treatment, services or supplies covered or provided by the carrier, if any; and (3) said procedure shall allow the insured to request a conference. The carrier or utilization review organization shall schedule such a conference within ten days of receiving such a request from an insured, at which the information provided to the insured pursuant to clauses (1) and (2) shall be reviewed by the insured and a representative of the carrier who has authority to determine the disposition of the grievance. The carrier shall permit attendance at the conference of the insured, a designee of the insured or both, or, if the insured is a minor or incompetent, the parent, guardian or conservator of the insured as appropriate. The conference required by this paragraph shall be held within five business days if the treating physician determines, after consultation with the carrier’s medical director or his designee, and based on standard medical practice, that the effectiveness of either the proposed treatment, services or supplies or any alternative treatment, services or supplies covered by the carrier, would be materially reduced if not provided at the earliest possible date.

(c) A grievance not properly acted on by the carrier within the time limits required by this section shall be deemed resolved in favor of the insured. Notwithstanding the exhaustion of formal internal grievance process remedies required by section 14, in the event that an insured claims that a carrier failed to properly act on a grievance that is an adverse determination within the time limits required by this section, such claim is immediately eligible for external review.

(d) An insured may request an expedited review of a grievance and at the same time may request an expedited external review of the grievance pursuant to section 14.