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October 2002, Vol. 125, No.10
Preventive care provisions, other benefits:
are they described in plan documents?
Allan P. Blostin
Provisions in medical care plans that emphasize coverage for preventive care tests have risen sharply in recent years.1 The attention generated by such preventive care measures as cancer screening and cholesterol tests led the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (hereafter, called Healthcare Research) to conduct a joint study to determine if employer health insurance documents specifically describe certain medical provisions. The study was conducted under the auspices of the Interagency Committee on Employment-Related Health Insurance Surveys. The primary motivation behind the test was the need for more information on preventive care services, as expressed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.2
The Committee was formed as a means for Government agencies to coordinate statistical survey data related to health insurance, share information, and identify and fill data gaps.3 Since its inception in 1998, the Committee’s coordination efforts have focused on collection, analysis, and dissemination of statistical estimates. In addition to the Government agencies that produce health insurance statistics, the Committee’s efforts are geared toward the wider data-user community and health policymakers.
How the test was conducted
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality role. The joint study by Healthcare Research and BLS was undertaken in several steps. Initially, Healthcare Research identified medical care provisions that it was interested in studying, data for which BLS does not presently collect. These provisions include various cancer screening and other preventive care tests, and medical procedures, such as laser eye surgery, that have become more prominent in recent years. Next, Healthcare Research conducted three separate studies to collect preliminary information on these provisions from plan documents collected as part of its 1996 household and establishment surveys.4 The main purpose was to provide feedback on information available from booklets to assist with additional study and to develop a data collection form for use by BLS. As a result of this study, definitions of terms and the design of the collection form were refined, and the list of provisions to be included in the BLS study was expanded.
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1 Employee Benefits in Medium and Large Private Establishments, 1997, Bulletin 2517, (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1999), table 7, p. 11.
2 See the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on the Internet at http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/prevenix.htm.
3 Since its formation, the Committee has undertaken many projects to achieve its goals. One example was the development of a standard set of health insurance definitions that will be used by many Government agencies for survey collection and dissemination of data. Additionally, these definitions will be distributed to the broader health community. The health definitions are currently available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ncs/home.htm (visited October 15, 2002), and from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality on the Internet at http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/mepsdata/ic/icdefinitions.htm (visited October 10, 2002). For more information on the work of the Committee, see Holly Harvey, Katharine R. Levit, and William J. Wiatrowski, "Employment-Related Health Insurance: Federal Agencies’ Roles in Meeting Data Needs," Health Care Financing Review, Spring 2002, Volume 23, Number 3, pp. 115–130.
4 The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in conjunction with the National Center for Health Statistics. The MEPS is a nationally representative survey that collects detailed information on health status, access to care, healthcare use and expenses, and health insurance coverage of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States.
Related BLS programs
Employee Benefits Survey
health insurance: what's offered, what's chosen?—Oct.
Trends in employer-provided health care benefits.—Feb. 1991.
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