Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Regence to stop selling child-only policies in WA; Kreidler "appalled"

Here's a press release our office is putting out this morning:
Regence BlueShield, one of Washington state’s largest health insurers, intends to stop selling new policies for children in Washington under age 19 as of Oct. 1.

The decision followed days of discussions with Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and his staff, who strongly objected to Regence’s decision.

“I’m appalled,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “We’ve made regulatory concessions to limit Regence’s exposure. Their overreaction will seriously harm Washington families.”

As of Sept. 23, 2010, the federal Affordable Care Act requires many health plans to cover children’s pre-existing conditions. Kreidler’s office issued an emergency rule last week, allowing individual health plans to limit their risk by creating a special open-enrollment period from Nov. 1 – Dec. 15. During this time, parents can add their children to their individual plans without taking a health screen.

According to Kreidler, “A special enrollment period drastically limits the carriers’ risk and should more than address their concerns. By pulling out of this market, Regence just cut off vital coverage for working families.”

People still can buy individual plans from Regence for themselves and their families, but children only can be added between Nov. 1-Dec. 15. Anyone wanting to buy a health plan for just their child must choose a different health insurer.

Child-only policies are unusual in Washington state. Here, if you buy coverage for your family in the individual market, you’re issued one policy for the entire family. Family policies are not available in some states. There, people looking for family coverage must buy a policy for each member.

Regence Blueshield currently has 2,500 child-only policies in the state and they will remain in effect.

“So far, no other health carrier in Washington state has signaled its intent to leave this market,” added Kreidler. “I hope we can expect better from them.”

Parents looking for health insurance for their children can try the other health carriers in the individual market. Or, if they meet income qualifications, they might be eligible for Washington state’s Apple Health for Kids program. Coverage costs $30 a month per child for a family of four earning $66,150.

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