Starting today, families have a special opportunity to get health coverage to protect their children: Open enrollment for child-only insurance plans begins today, Nov. 1, and goes through Dec. 15.
The six-week period allows families to obtain insurance for children who have been previously denied health coverage due to pre-existing conditions. This opportunity is due in large part to state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who reacted quickly to large insurers’ attempts to eliminate their child-only plans, which are one option for health coverage for families in our state.
As of Sept. 23, under a provision of the Affordable Care Act – the federal health care reform law – health insurance companies can no longer deny children coverage because of pre-existing conditions. In an attempt to skirt that regulation, a number of insurance carriers across the nation announced that they would stop selling child-only plans.
In response, Kreidler issued an emergency rule creating the special enrollment period, during which time insurers must take all children who apply, regardless of any pre-existing condition. The special enrollment period alleviates insurers’ worries that parents would only get insurance for their children when their kids get sick.
When Regence BlueShield, one of the state’s largest insurers, announced that it too would no longer offer child-only plans, Kreidler stood strong for kids.
"Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age," he told SeattlePI.com. "I was shocked and deeply disappointed when Regence announced its decision last week to stop selling insurance to kids."
Kreidler then issued a cease and desist order, with which Regence has complied.
As Washington’s largest provider of individual health plans, Regence currently covers 2,500 kids on its child-only plans. The company’s attempt to stop offering these plans represents a move to limit health coverage options and avoid regulations in the new federal health care law. Doing so would hinder working families’ efforts to protect their children, just as the recession’s impact virtually guarantees that employer-based coverage remains scarce.
We applaud Mike Kreidler for standing up to a policy that would harm children and families in our state.