January 29, 2016
This week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published a depression screening recommendation without providing any specific guidance to employers on how to include the recommendation in their health care plans. Under the ACA, employers are required to provide first-dollar benefit coverage for the Task Force's recommendations that have an "A" or "B" rating, which includes depression screening. However, the recommendation states "there is little evidence regarding the optimal timing for screening" and the optimum interval for screening is also "unknown," which leaves employers in the difficult position guessing how HHS will enforce the benefit mandate. The Task Force's latest recommendation vividly illustrates the need for Congress to amend the ACA to enable the employers and other stakeholders to provide input through rulemaking on how the Task Force's clinical practice recommendations should be translated into coverage benefits. Currently, the Task Force is composed entirely of physicians and other medical experts.