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TITLE 28INSURANCE
PART 1TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE
CHAPTER 3LIFE, ACCIDENT, AND HEALTH INSURANCE AND ANNUITIES
SUBCHAPTER XPREFERRED AND EXCLUSIVE PROVIDER PLANS
DIVISION 1GENERAL REQUIREMENTS
RULE §3.3704Freedom of Choice; Availability of Preferred Providers

(a) Fairness requirements. A preferred provider benefit plan is not considered unjust under Insurance Code §§1701.002 - 1701.005; 1701.051 - 1701.060; 1701.101 - 1701.103; and 1701.151, or to unfairly discriminate under Insurance Code Chapter 542, Subchapter A, or §§544.051 - 544.054, or to violate §§1451.001, 1451.053, 1451.054, or 1451.101 - 1451.127 of the Insurance Code provided that:

  (1) pursuant to Insurance Code §§1251.005, 1251.006, 1301.003, 1301.006, 1301.051, 1301.053, 1301.054, 1301.055, 1301.057 - 1301.062, 1301.064, 1301.065, 1301.151, 1301.156, and 1301.201, the preferred provider benefit plan does not require that a service be rendered by a particular hospital, physician, or practitioner;

  (2) insureds are provided with direct and reasonable access to all classes of physicians and practitioners licensed to treat illnesses or injuries and to provide services covered by the preferred provider benefit plan;

  (3) insureds have the right to treatment and diagnostic techniques as prescribed by a physician or other health care provider included in the preferred provider benefit plan;

  (4) insureds have the right to continuity of care as set forth in the Insurance Code §§1301.152 - 1301.154;

  (5) insureds have the right to emergency care services as set forth in Insurance Code §1301.0053 and §1301.155, and §3.3708 of this title (relating to Payment of Certain Basic Benefit Claims and Related Disclosures) and §3.3725 of this title (relating to Payment of Certain Out-of-Network Claims);

  (6) the basic level of coverage, excluding a reasonable difference in deductibles, is not more than 50 percent less than the higher level of coverage, except as provided under an exclusive provider benefit plan. A reasonable difference in deductibles is determined considering the benefits of each individual policy;

  (7) the rights of an insured to exercise full freedom of choice in the selection of a physician or provider, or in the selection of a preferred provider under an exclusive provider benefit plan, are not restricted by the insurer;

  (8) if the insurer is issuing other health insurance policies in the service area that do not provide for the use of preferred providers, the basic level of coverage of a plan that is not an exclusive provider benefit plan is reasonably consistent with other health insurance policies offered by the insurer that do not provide for a different level of coverage for use of a preferred provider;

  (9) any actions taken by an insurer engaged in utilization review under a preferred provider benefit plan is taken pursuant to the Insurance Code Chapter 4201 and Chapter 19, Subchapter R of this title (relating to Utilization Review Agents);

  (10) a preferred provider benefit plan that is not an exclusive provider benefit plan may provide for a different level of coverage for use of a nonpreferred provider if the referral is made by a preferred provider only if full disclosure of the difference is included in the plan and the written description as required by §3.3705(b) of this title (relating to Nature of Communications with Insureds; Readability, Mandatory Disclosure Requirements, and Plan Designations);

  (11) both preferred provider benefits and basic level benefits are reasonably available to all insureds within a designated service area; and

  (12) if medically necessary covered services are not reasonably available through preferred physicians or providers, insureds have the right to receive care from a nonpreferred provider in accord with Insurance Code §1301.005 and §1301.0052, and §3.3708 and §3.3725 of this title, as applicable.

(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a)(11) of this section, an exclusive provider benefit plan is not considered unjust under Insurance Code §§1701.002 - 1701.005, 1701.051 - 1701.060, 1701.101 - 1701.103, and 1701.151; or to unfairly discriminate under Insurance Code Chapter 542, Subchapter A, or §§544.051 - 544.054, or to violate Insurance Code §§1451.101 - 1451.127, provided that:

  (1) the exclusive provider benefit plan complies with subsection (a)(1) - (10) and (12) of this section; and

  (2) for the purposes of subsection (a)(11) of this section, an exclusive provider benefit plan must only ensure that preferred provider benefits are reasonably available to all insureds within a designated service area.

(c) Payment of nonpreferred providers. Payment by the insurer must be made for covered services of a nonpreferred provider in the same prompt and efficient manner as to a preferred provider.

(d) Retaliatory action prohibited. An insurer is prohibited from engaging in retaliatory action against an insured, including cancellation of or refusal to renew a policy, because the insured or a person acting on behalf of the insured has filed a complaint with the department or the insurer against the insurer or a preferred provider or has appealed a decision of the insurer.

(e) Access to certain institutional providers. In addition to the requirements for availability of preferred providers set forth in Insurance Code §1301.005, any insurer offering a preferred provider benefit plan must make a good faith effort to have a mix of for-profit, non-profit, and tax-supported institutional providers under contract as preferred providers in the service area to afford all insureds under the plan freedom of choice in the selection of institutional providers at which they will receive care, unless the mix is not feasible due to geographic, economic, or other operational factors. An insurer must give special consideration to contracting with teaching hospitals and hospitals that provide indigent care or care for uninsured individuals as a significant percentage of their overall patient load.

(f) Network requirements. Each preferred provider benefit plan must include a health care service delivery network that complies with Insurance Code §1301.005 and §1301.006 and the local market adequacy requirements described in this section. An adequate network must:

  (1) be sufficient, in number, size, and geographic distribution, to be capable of furnishing the preferred benefit health care services covered by the insurance contract within the insurer's designated service area, taking into account the number of insureds and their characteristics, medical, and health care needs, including the:

    (A) current utilization of covered health care services within the prescribed geographic distances outlined in this section; and

    (B) projected utilization of covered health care services;

  (2) include an adequate number of preferred providers available and accessible to insureds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, within the insurer's designated service area;

  (3) include sufficient numbers and classes of preferred providers to ensure choice, access, and quality of care across the insurer's designated service area;

  (4) include an adequate number of preferred provider physicians who have admitting privileges at one or more preferred provider hospitals located within the insurer's designated service area to make any necessary hospital admissions;

  (5) provide for necessary hospital services by contracting with general, special, and psychiatric hospitals on a preferred benefit basis within the insurer's designated service area, as applicable;

  (6) provide, if covered, for physical and occupational therapy services and chiropractic services by preferred providers that are available and accessible within the insurer's designated service area;

  (7) provide for emergency care that is available and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by preferred providers;

  (8) provide for preferred benefit services sufficiently accessible and available as necessary to ensure that the distance from any point in the insurer's designated service area to a point of service is not greater than:

    (A) 30 miles in nonrural areas and 60 miles in rural areas for primary care and general hospital care; and

    (B) 75 miles for specialty care and specialty hospitals;

  (9) ensure that covered urgent care is available and accessible from preferred providers within the insurer's designated service area within 24 hours for medical and behavioral health conditions;

  (10) ensure that routine care is available and accessible from preferred providers:

    (A) within three weeks for medical conditions; and

    (B) within two weeks for behavioral health conditions;

  (11) ensure that preventive health services are available and accessible from preferred providers:

    (A) within two months for a child, or earlier if necessary for compliance with recommendations for specific preventive care services; and

    (B) within three months for an adult.

(g) Network monitoring and corrective action. Insurers must monitor compliance with subsection (f) of this section on an ongoing basis, taking any needed corrective action as required to ensure that the network is adequate.

(h) Service areas. For purposes of this subchapter, a preferred provider benefit plan may have one or more contiguous or noncontiguous service areas, but any service areas that are smaller than statewide must be defined in terms of one of the following:

  (1) one or more of the 11 Texas geographic regions designated in §3.3711 of this title (relating to Geographic Regions);

  (2) one or more Texas counties; or

  (3) the first three digits of ZIP Codes in Texas.


Source Note: The provisions of this §3.3704 adopted to be effective July 1, 1986, 11 TexReg 2810; amended to be effective December 28, 1990, 15 TexReg 7183; amended to be effective December 6, 1995, 20 TexReg 9697; amended to be effective June 1, 1996, 21 TexReg 2465; amended to be effective July 15, 1999, 24 TexReg 5204; amended to be effective December 6, 2011, 36 TexReg 3411; amended to be effective February 21, 2013, 38 TexReg 827

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