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HHS Office on Disability Update

Health Insurance Exchange Final Rule Released – Highlights of Features in the Exchange Regulations Promoting Accessibility

March 28, 2012


Dear Colleagues:

On March 12, 2012, HHS published a final rule on Affordable Health Insurance Exchanges, which combines policies from two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking published last summer. Laying the foundation for one-stop marketplaces will allow consumers and small businesses to choose a private health insurance plan and allow individuals to apply for insurance affordability programs, including Exchange coverage with tax credits and cost-sharing reductions,  Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  HHS is committed to putting in place an accessible infrastructure that empowers consumers with disabilities with equitable access to the vital information required to act as informed consumers of health insurance.   In response to vigorous consumer input, the final regulations retain, and in some cases improve upon accessibility provisions from the proposed rule issued last summer.

Some of these improvements include:

  1. Requiring the use of plain language;
  2. Specifying that auxiliary aids and services be provided at no cost to consumers with disabilities;
  3. Providing that meaningful access standards will apply to the call centers operated in association with the Exchanges;
  4. Requiring that consumers and applicants must be informed of the availability of auxiliary aids and services;
  5. Applying meaningful access provisions to Exchange notices and QHP issuer notices; 
  6. Specifying that the Navigator functions must be accessible to persons with disabilities;
  7. Providing that an application filer must be able to file in person, with reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act;
  8. Requiring that QHPs considering terminations of persons with disabilities must provide reasonable accommodations; and
  9. Requiring that QHP provider directories must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

The regulation specifies that more detailed guidance on accessibility related to the Exchanges will be developed in the future by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in consultation with stakeholders.  Through collaborative efforts between CMS, the Office on Disability, and the Office for Civil Rights, HHS continues to promote equal access to healthcare for all people, including persons with disabilities

Read the regulation for yourself. The regulation was printed in the Federal Register on March 27, 2012. An HHS Press Release announcing the health insurance exchange rules was issued on March 12, 2012.

Federal Register:

HHS Press Release:

Your voices were heard. Thank you for your ongoing engagement as we work to put in place an accessible infrastructure for delivering quality, affordable health care.



HHS Office on Disability