“They can’t say children, just because of their age,
can’t be insured. So today I am ordering Regence to once more offer insurance
coverage for children.”
With those words, Washington State’s Insurance
Commissioner, Mike Kreidler, stood up for children and ordered Regence Blue
Shield to “cease and desist” from eliminating its child-only policies. Regence is one of several
insurance companies nationwide that decided to eliminate its child-only
coverage when health reform’s “Patient’s Bill of Rights” provision preventing
discrimination against children based on pre-existing conditions took effect
September 23. Insurance companies
are looking to get away with eliminating their child-only plans in a number of
other states but Washington has a law on its books that prohibits insurers from
denying coverage based on age.
“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 Commissioner Kreidler in a statement. “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.”
The order only applies to Regence policies in Washington and does not impact the company’s elimination of child-only plans in other states in which it does business such as Oregon. Families seeking child-only plans must comply with the new open enrollment period rules which were put in place to help alleviate insurers concerns about exposure to market risk.
Regence issued this statement in response to the Commissioner’s order stating that it was shocked and that it looks forward to working to resolve the issue and other ongoing problems in the health care system.
I hope other Insurance Commissioners take note of Mr
Kreidler’s willingness to go to bat for consumers, as well as of the good work
of policymakers on this issue in a number of other states such as California
and New Hampshire. As
the experience with attempting to ensure that children can secure coverage
despite a pre-existing condition demonstrates, it is clear that the
effectiveness of key elements of the health reform law may come down to
state-level decision-making and resolve.