(1) A health carrier shall maintain each plan network in a manner that is sufficient in numbers and types of providers and facilities to assure that all health plan services to covered persons will be accessible without unreasonable delay. Each covered person shall have adequate choice among each type of health care provider, including those types of providers who must be included in the network under WAC 284-43-205
. In the case of emergency services, covered persons shall have access twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. The carrier's service area shall not be created in a manner designed to discriminate against persons because of age, sex, family structure, ethnicity, race, health condition, employment status, or socioeconomic status. Each carrier shall ensure that its networks will meet these requirements by the end of the first year of initial operation of the network and at all times thereafter.
(2) Sufficiency and adequacy of choice may be established by the carrier with reference to any reasonable criteria used by the carrier, including but not limited to: Provider-covered person ratios by specialty, primary care provider-covered person ratios, geographic accessibility, waiting times for appointments with participating providers, hours of operation, and the volume of technological and specialty services available to serve the needs of covered persons requiring technologically advanced or specialty care. Evidence of carrier compliance with network adequacy standards that are substantially similar to those standards established by state agency health care purchasers (e.g., the state health care authority and the department of social and health services) and by private managed care accreditation organizations may be used to demonstrate sufficiency. At a minimum, a carrier will be held accountable for meeting those standards described under WAC 284-43-220
(3) In any case where the health carrier has an absence of or an insufficient number or type of participating providers or facilities to provide a particular covered health care service, the carrier shall ensure through referral by the primary care provider or otherwise that the covered person obtains the covered service from a provider or facility within reasonable proximity of the covered person at no greater cost to the covered person than if the service were obtained from network providers and facilities, or shall make other arrangements acceptable to the commissioner.
(4) The health carrier shall establish and maintain adequate arrangements to ensure reasonable proximity of network providers and facilities to the business or personal residence of covered persons. Health carriers shall make reasonable efforts to include providers and facilities in networks in a manner that limits the amount of travel required to obtain covered benefits. For example, a carrier should not require travel of thirty miles or more when a provider who meets carrier standards is available for inclusion in the network and practices within five miles of enrollees. In determining whether a health carrier has complied with this provision, the commissioner will give due consideration to the relative availability of health care providers or facilities in the service area under consideration and to the standards established by state agency health care purchasers. Relative availability includes the willingness of providers or facilities in the service area to contract with the carrier under reasonable terms and conditions.
(5) A health carrier shall monitor, on an ongoing basis, the ability and clinical capacity of its network providers and facilities to furnish health plan services to covered persons.
(6) Beginning July 1, 2000, the health carrier shall disclose to covered persons that limitations or restrictions on access to participating providers and facilities may arise from the health service referral and authorization practices of participating providers and facilities. The carrier shall provide instructions to covered persons as to how they can receive details about such practices from their primary care provider or through other formally established processes. For example, a covered person relying on such instructions or processes could discover if the choice of a particular primary care provider would result in the covered person's inability to obtain a referral to certain other participating providers.
(7) To provide adequate choice to covered persons who are American Indians, each health carrier shall maintain arrangements that ensure that American Indians who are covered persons have access to Indian health care services and facilities that are part of the Indian health system. Carriers shall ensure that such covered persons may obtain covered services from the Indian health system at no greater cost to the covered person than if the service were obtained from network providers and facilities. Carriers are not responsible for credentialing providers and facilities that are part of the Indian health system. Nothing in this subsection prohibits a carrier from limiting coverage to those health services that meet carrier standards for medical necessity, care management, and claims administration or from limiting payment to that amount payable if the health service were obtained from a network provider or facility.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 48.02.060, 48.18.120, 48.20.450, 48.20.460, 48.30.010, 48.44.050, 48.46.100, 48.46.200, 48.43.505, 48.43.510, 48.43.515, 48.43.520, 48.43.525, 48.43.530, 48.43.535. 01-03-033 (Matter No. R 2000-02), § 284-43-200, filed 1/9/01, effective 7/1/01. Statutory Authority: RCW 48.02.060, 48.18.120, 48.20.450, 48.20.460, 48.30.010, 48.44.050, 48.46.030, 48.46.200. 00-04-034 (Matter No. R 99-2), § 284-43-200, filed 1/24/00, effective 3/1/00. Statutory Authority: RCW 48.02.060, 48.20.450, 48.20.460, 48.30.010, 48.44.020, 48.44.050, 48.44.080, 48.46.030, 48.46.060(2), 48.46.200 and 48.46.243. 98-04-005 (Matter No. R 97-3), § 284-43-200, filed 1/22/98, effective 2/22/98.]