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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Profits before children

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

Just last month, consumer advocates and families across the country celebrated as new provisions from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took effect. This included one of the most popular provisions—banning insurers from denying children access to health coverage due to pre-existing conditions—which would be an enormous help to parents everywhere.

However, that celebration didn’t last long: We got word just a few weeks ago that a handful of insurance companies have decided to stop selling child-only insurance policies.

Child-only policies were created for parents who want to cover their child but their job-based coverage doesn’t cover dependents, or they are strapped for cash and can’t afford to purchase their own insurance.

Thousands of parents across the country rely on these policies.

But instead of complying with the new law and covering kids who have been sick or have a chronic condition like asthma, these insurers have simply chosen not to offer child-only policies. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Not only is this harmful to the health of children around the country, it’s just not right. Parents depend on these policies to ensure that their child will be covered if they have an asthma attack or break a bone playing soccer.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are finally being held responsible for their actions, and are now required to play by the rules. But instead of following through with their promise to play by the rules, some have  decided they’d rather quit the game entirely.

Insurers stated they are worried that parents will wait until their children get sick to purchase health insurance, which would raise premiums for everyone. In response, the Obama administration issued a set of guidelines that address any real problems that insurance companies might have, giving states and insurers several options to enroll children. For example, they can set specific “open enrollment” times of year when they will accept children—which discourages families from waiting until a child is sick to seek coverage. (At other times of year, children may be allowed to enroll in special circumstances, such as when they have recently lost job-based coverage.) Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, holding insurers accountable for offering coverage to all children.

If the insurers do not now agree to sell policies to all children, there can only be one explanation: they are putting profits before the health of American’s children. It’s time for these insurance companies to treat every child fairly—regardless of whether or not they’ve ever been sick