NU Online News Service, Dec. 29, 2004, 12:25 p.m. EST

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued its final regulation explaining when workers can continue their group health insurance if they leave their jobs.[@@]

The final regulation clarifies the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and becomes effective for plan years starting on or after July 1, 2005.

The rule limits preexisting condition exclusions that a group health care plan could impose on workers and requires group plans and carriers to offer special enrollment upon certain life events.

Identical regulations are being issued simultaneously by the Departments of Labor and Treasury.

HHS, Labor and Treasury also are publishing a proposed regulation and soliciting comments on some potential additional aspects of HIPAA group health plan requirements.

For example, the proposed regulation would extend the time for individuals to exercise certain HIPAA portability rights where the individual is not promptly notified that he or she has lost health insurance coverage.

The final and proposed regulations will be published Dec. 30, 2004 in the Federal Register.