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Health Insurance Glossary

Definitions for common health insurance terms

fixed-dollar indemnity plan

DEFINITION: A fixed-dollar indemnity plan is a type of medical insurance that pays a pre-determined amount on a per-period or per-incident basis, regardless of the total charges incurred.  Plans might pay $200 upon hospital admission, for example, or $100 per day while a person is hospitalized.

The original rules released by the Department of Health and Human Services stipulated that fixed-dollar indemnity plans would only be exempt from Affordable Care Act regulation if they paid benefits on a “per-period” basis as opposed to a “per-service” basis. (So for example, they would need to pay a fixed-dollar amount per day in the hospital, as opposed to paying a fixed amount for each doctor visit, prescription, surgery, etc.)

In early 2014, HHS proposed relaxing those guidelines and allowing per-service fixed-dollar indemnity plans to be exempt from Obamacare rules, as long as they were only sold to people who have minimum essential coverage in place through another policy (among other requirements).

But health insurers (along with 11 states that joined an amicus brief) took legal action against HHS, and in July 2016, a federal appeals court struck down the HHS provision that limited the sale of fixed-dollar indemnity plans only to people who also had minimum essential coverage in place.

Fixed-dollar indemnity plans are still not regulated by the ACA, do not provide coverage for the essential health benefits, can exclude pre-existing conditions, and have annual and lifetime benefit limits (as well as defined benefit limits for all services, as that’s their service model). People who have fixed-dollar indemnity plans without additional minimum essential coverage are subject to the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, as coverage under a fixed-dollar indemnity plan does not count as having insurance.