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Essential Health Benefits
To ensure affordability and to protect the intent of the ACA, the committee concluded that costs must be considered both in the determination of the initial EHB package and in its updating. Thus, the cost of the initial EHB package resulting from the previous steps should be compared to a premium target, defined by the committee as what small employers would have paid, on average, in 2014. Committee members believe that absent a premium target, there would be no capacity to acknowledge the realities of limited resources and the ongoing need for affordability of the package. The EHB package should be modified as necessary to meet this estimated premium, including using a structured public deliberative process. In addition, the committee recommends that states operating their own exchanges be able to design a variant of the EHB package if certain standards are met.
Updating the EHB package. Both medical science and our understanding of how best to design insurance products will change over time. Thus, the committee recommends creating a framework and infrastructure for collecting data and analyzing implementation of the initial EHB; a National Benefits Advisory Council is recommended to give the Secretary advice on the research plan and on updates to the EHB package. The committee believes that the EHB package should become more fully evidence-based, specific, and value-based over time. In addition, as with the initial package, costs must be taken into account so that any service added to the package should be offset by savings, such as through the elimination of inappropriate or outmoded services.
Finally, the committee noted that even with the use of a premium target, the affordability of the EHB package is threatened by overall rising medical costs in the United States and recommends that the Secretary, in collaboration with others, develop a strategy to reduce health care spending growth across all sectors.