Washington Regulator Calls Denying Insurance to Children Illegal

October 19, 2010

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has ordered Regence BlueShield to stop illegally denying insurance to children. Last week, the company had announced it was going to stop selling insurance to children.

“Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age,” Kreidler said, however.

The Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to cover kids with pre-existing conditions. However, to accommodate the insurance industry’s concerns that people would only enroll their children when they became sick, the federal government let states create a special open enrollment period.

Kreidler issued an emergency rule creating a special enrollment period from November 1 to December 15. During this time, anyone looking for an individual health plan for their families or just their children can enroll their kids without having to take a health screen.

Regence Blue Shield, the largest health insurer in the individual market, notified Kreidler on September 27 that, effective October 1, it would no longer sell individual health insurance policies to children.

“Regence’s decision had a serious impact on Washington families and could’ve had a devastating impact on the insurance market,” the commissioner said. “We worked hard with the large health insurers to accommodate their concerns and most, including Premera and Group Health did the right thing. Frankly, Regence deserves the backlash from its decision. It overreacted and now finds itself in violation of the law.”

Regence currently has approximately 2,500 child-only policies in force.

“Hundreds of consumers have contacted my office, upset over Regence refusing to cover kids and for blaming its recent rate increases on health reform,” said Kreidler. “I can understand why they’re confused and mad. I’m sick and tired of the insurance industry pulling these stunts and misleading the public about health reform. I expect better of companies wanting to do business in Washington.”

Topics Market Washington

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