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June 24, 2024 Clouds | 80°F
The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 14: Review panel; patient protection office

  Section 14. (a) An insured who remains aggrieved by an adverse determination and has exhausted all remedies available from the formal internal grievance process required pursuant to section 13, may seek further review of the grievance by a review panel established by the office of patient protection pursuant to paragraph (5) of subsection (a) of section 16 of chapter 6D. The insured shall pay the first $25 of the cost of the review to said office, which may waive the fee in cases of extreme financial hardship and which shall refund the fee to the insured if the adverse determination is reversed in its entirety. No insured shall be required to pay more than $75 per plan year, regardless of the number of external review requests submitted. The carrier shall be responsible for the remainder of the cost of the review pursuant to regulations promulgated by the executive director of the health policy commission in consultation with the commissioner of insurance. The office of patient protection shall contract with at least 3 unrelated and objective review agencies through a bidding process and refer grievances to 1 of the review agencies on a random selection basis. The review agencies shall be accredited by a national accrediting organization and shall develop review panels appropriate for the given grievance, which shall include qualified clinical decision-makers experienced in the determination of medical necessity, utilization management protocols and grievance resolution, and shall not have any financial relationship with the carrier making the initial determination. The standard for review of a grievance by such a panel shall be the determination of whether the requested treatment or service is medically necessary, as defined in section 1, and a covered benefit under the policy or contract. The panel shall consider, but not be limited to considering: (i) any related right to such treatment or service under any related state statute or regulation; (ii) written documents submitted by the insured; (iii) medical records and medical opinions regarding medical necessity by the insured's treating provider that requested or provided the disputed service, which shall be obtained by the carrier, or by the panel if the carrier fails to do so; (iv) additional information from the involved parties or outside sources that the review panel deems necessary or relevant; and (v) information obtained from any informal meeting held by the panel with the parties. The panel shall send final written disposition of the grievance and the reasons therefore, to the insured and the carrier within 45 days of receipt of the request for review. Notwithstanding the requirements of this section, an insured may request an external review of an adverse determination without exhausting the carrier's internal appeals process if the insured is seeking an expedited review or if the carrier failed to meet the time limits specified in section 13.

  (b) If a grievance is filed concerning the termination of ongoing coverage or treatment, the disputed coverage or treatment shall remain in effect through completion of the formal internal grievance process. An insured may apply to the external review panel to seek continued provision of health care services that are the subject of the grievance during the course of an expedited or non-expedited external review upon a showing of substantial harm to the insured's health absent such continuation or other good cause as determined by the panel; provided, however, that good cause shall include a pattern of denials that have been overturned by prior internal or external appeals. The external review panel set forth in section 14 shall send final written disposition of the grievance, and the reasons therefore, to the insured and the carrier within 72 hours of receipt of the request for such expedited review.

  (c) The decision of the review panel shall be binding on the insured and on the carrier. The superior court shall have jurisdiction to enforce the decision of the review panel. A carrier's failure to promptly comply with a decision of the review panel shall be an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of chapter 93A.

  (d) A carrier shall allow a guardian, conservator, holder of a power of attorney, family member, or other responsible party to act as the insured's representative in the event that an insured is unable to pursue a grievance due to physical or mental disability. An insured may designate such a representative or, if the insured is unable to so designate, a guardian, conservator, holder of a power of attorney or family member, in order of priority, may serve as representative or may designate another responsible party to act as representative. The representative shall have the same rights of grievance as the insured, including the right to review the insured's medical file relevant to a dispute concerning coverage or treatment.

  (e) The grievance procedures authorized by this section shall be in addition to any other procedures that may be available to any insured pursuant to contract or law, and failure to pursue, exhaust or engage in the procedures described in this subsection shall not preclude the use of any other remedy provided by any contract or law.

  (f) No health care provider and no agent or employee of a health care provider shall provide information relative to unpaid charges for health care services to a consumer reporting agency, as defined in section 50 of chapter 93, while an internal or external review under this section is pending or for 30 days following the resolution of a grievance. No health care provider and no agent or employee of a health care provider, including a debt collector as defined in section 24 of said chapter 93, shall initiate debt collection activities relative to unpaid charges for health care services while an internal or external review under this section is pending or for 30 days following the resolution of a grievance.

[ Subsection (g) effective until March 29, 2023. For text effective March 29, 2023, see below.]

  (g) The office of patient protection shall monitor carrier denials and shall identify any trends regarding particular treatments or services or carrier practices and may refer such matters to the division of insurance, the group insurance commission or the office of the attorney general for review for compliance with state or federal laws related to mental health and substance use disorder parity including, but not limited to, section 22 of chapter 32A, section 47B of chapter 175, section 8A of chapter 176A, section 4A of chapter 176B and sections 4, 4B and 4M of chapter 176G, in regard to any carrier licensed under chapters 175, 176A, 176B or 176G, any carrier offering a student health plan issued under section 18 of chapter 15A or the group insurance commission, or the mental health parity provisions of the federal Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, 42 U.S.C. 18031(j), as amended, and federal guidance or regulations issued under the act. The office of patient protection shall refer any questions or concerns from consumers about carrier compliance with state or federal laws related to mental health and substance use disorder parity to the division of insurance, the group insurance commission or the office of the attorney general.

[ Subsection (g) as amended by 2023, 2, Sec. 20 effective March 29, 2023. For text effective until March 29, 2023, see above.]

  (g) The office of patient protection shall monitor carrier denials and shall identify any trends regarding particular treatments or services or carrier practices and may refer such matters to the division of insurance, the group insurance commission or the office of the attorney general for review for compliance with state or federal laws related to mental health and substance use disorder parity including, but not limited to, section 22 of chapter 32A, section 47B of chapter 175, section 8A of chapter 176A, section 4A of chapter 176B and sections 4, 4B and 4M of chapter 176G, in regard to any carrier licensed under chapters 175, 176A, 176B or 176G, any carrier offering a student health plan issued under section 18 of chapter 15A or the group insurance commission, or the mental health parity provisions of the federal Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, 42 U.S.C. 300gg-26, as amended, and federal guidance or regulations issued under the act. The office of patient protection shall refer any questions or concerns from consumers about carrier compliance with state or federal laws related to mental health and substance use disorder parity to the division of insurance, the group insurance commission or the office of the attorney general.