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A Consumer Guide to Handling Disputes with Your Employer or Private Health Plan

Most people get their healthcare through some form of managed care plan - a health maintenance organization, preferred provider organization, or point-of-service option. Most of the time, people receive the care they need, but the potential exists for disagreements over the services that will be provided or paid for by health plans.

Most people get their healthcare through some form of managed care plan – a health maintenance organization, preferred provider organization, or point-of-service option. Most of the time, people receive the care they need, but the potential exists for disagreements over the services that will be provided or paid for by health plans.

Health plans are required to follow state and federal rules for handling their enrollee’s complaints and appeals inside the health plan, known as an “internal review.” Many states have legislated additional procedures outside of the health plan, called “external reviews” or “independent reviews,” to provide an unbiased way to resolve disputes between patients and their health plans. An external review is a reconsideration of a health plan’s denial of service, with the review conducted by a person or panel of individuals who are not part of the plan. As of December 2004, 43 states plus the District of Columbia had legislated such procedures.

Anyone enrolled in a health plan should be familiar with their plan’s internal review process and any external review program in their state in case problems later arise. This guide will help you navigate your employer or private health plan’s internal grievance procedure, as well as any external review program your state may have. The guide is not applicable, however, for resolving disputes if you have Medicare or Medicaid coverage.

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IssuesHealth