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Part Number: 1609

Federal Employee Health Benefits Acquisition Regulation

Subpart 1609.70—Minimum Standards for Health Benefits Carriers

Subpart 1609.70—Minimum Standards for Health Benefits Carriers

1609.7001 Minimum standards for health benefits carriers.

(a) The carrier of an approved health benefits plan shall meet the requirements of chapter 89 of title 5, United States Code; part 890 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations; chapter 1 of title 48, Code of Federal Regulations, and the following standards. The carrier shall continue to meet the requirements of chapter 89 of title 5, United States Code, and the standards cited in this paragraph while under contract with OPM. Failure to meet these requirements and standards is cause for OPM's withdrawal of approval of the health benefits carrier and termination of the contract in accordance with 5 CFR 890.204.

(1) It must be lawfully engaged in the business of supplying health benefits.

(2) It must have, in the judgement of OPM, the financial resources and experience in the field of health benefits to carry out its obligations under the plan.

(3) It must keep such reasonable financial and statistical records, and furnish such reasonable financial and statistical reports with respect to the plan, as may be requested by OPM.

(4) It must permit representatives of OPM and of the General Accounting Office to audit and examine its records and accounts which pertain, directly or indirectly, to the plan at such reasonable times and places as may be designated by OPM or the General Accounting Office.

(5) It must accept, subject to adjustment for error or fraud, in payment of its charges for health benefits for all enrollees in its plan, the enrollment charges received by the Employees Health Benefits (EHB) Fund less amounts set aside for the administrative and contingency reserves prescribed in 5 CFR 890.503. OPM makes available or pays the amounts within 30 days of receipt by the EHB Fund.

(6) A carrier that is an employee organization must continue coverage, without requirement of membership, of any eligible survivor annuitants, former spouses continuing coverage with the carrier under 5 CFR 890.803, children temporarily continuing coverage with the carrier under 5 CFR 890.1103(a)(2), or former spouses temporarily continuing coverage with the carrier under 5 CFR 890.1103(a)(3).

(7) It must timely submit to OPM a properly completed and signed novation or change-of-name agreement in accordance with subpart 1642.12 of this chapter.

(b) In addition to the standards in paragraph (a) of this section, the carrier must perform the contract in accordance with prudent business practices. A carrier's sustained poor business practice in the management or administration of a health benefits plan is cause for OPM's withdrawal of approval of the health benefits carrier and termination of the carrier's contract. Prudent business practices include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Timely compliance with OPM instructions and directives.

(2) Legal and ethical business and health care practices.

(3) Compliance with the terms of the FEHB contract, regulations and statutes.

(4) Timely and accurate adjudication of claims or rendering of medical services.

(5) A system for accounting for costs incurred under the contract, when required, which includes segregating and pricing FEHB medical utilization and allocating indirect and administrative costs in a reasonable and equitable manner.

(6) Accurate accounting reports of actual, allowable, allocable, and reasonable costs incurred in the administration of the contract.

(7) Application of performance standards for assuring contract quality as required by 1646.270(d).

(8) Establishment and maintenance of a system of internal control that provides reasonable assurance that:

(i) The provision and payments of benefits and other expenses are in compliance with legal, regulatory, and contractual guidelines;

(ii) FEHB funds, property, and other assets are safeguarded against waste, loss, unauthorized use, or misappropriation; and,

(iii) Data are accurately and fairly disclosed in all reports required by OPM.

(c) The following types of activities are examples of poor business practices which adversely affect the health benefits carrier's responsibility under its contract. A pattern of poor conduct or evidence of misconduct in these areas is cause for OPM to withdraw approval of the carrier:

(1) Presenting false claims by charging expenses to the contract which according to the contract terms are not chargeable to the contract;

(2) Using fraudulent or unethical business or health care practices or otherwise displaying a lack of business integrity or honesty;

(3) Repeatedly and knowingly providing false or misleading information in the rate setting process;

(4) Repeated failure to comply with OPM instructions and directives;

(5) Having an accounting system that is incapable of separately accounting for costs incurred under the contract and/or that lacks the internal controls necessary to fulfill the terms of the contract; and

(6) Failure to assure that the plan provides properly paid or denied claims, or providing medical services which are inconsistent with standards of good medical practice.

(7) Entering into contracts or employment agreements with providers, provider groups, or health care workers that include provisions or financial incentives that directly or indirectly create an inducement to limit or restrict communication about medically necessary services to any individual covered under the FEHB Program. Financial incentives are defined as bonuses, withholds, commissions, profit sharing or other similar adjustments to basic compensation (e.g., service fee, capitation, salary) which have the effect of limiting or reducing communication about appropriate medically necessary services. Providers, health care workers, or health plan sponsoring organizations are not required to discuss treatment options that they would not ordinarily discuss in their customary course of practice because such options are inconsistent with their professional judgment or ethical, moral or religious beliefs.

(d) The Director or his or her designee will determine whether to propose withdrawal of approval and hold a hearing based on the seriousness of the carrier's actions and its proposed method to effect corrective action.

1609.7002 Minimum standards for Postal Service Health Benefits Carriers.

(a) The carrier of a PSHB plan shall meet the minimum standards as described in 1609.7001.

(b) To the greatest extent practicable, an FEHB Carrier (defined in 1602.170–1) that offers an FEHB plan (defined in 1602.170–9) in which the total enrollment includes 1,500 or more Postal Service employees or Postal Service annuitants in the contract year beginning January 2023 must offer a PSHB plan in the initial contract year. OPM may exempt a comprehensive medical plan, as described in 5 U.S.C. 8903(4), from the requirement in this paragraph (b).