Monday, March 29, 2010

Insurance for everybody except sick children

Extracts from
Coverage Now for Sick Children? Check Fine Print
By Robert Pear for the New York Times March 28, 2010

Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions.

Insurers on health care law: "The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost."

"The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform," said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate commerce committee, said: “The ink has not yet dried on the health care reform bill, and already some deplorable health insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions. This is outrageous.”

Insurers say they often limit coverage of pre-existing conditions under policies sold in the individual insurance market. Thus, for example, an insurer might cover a family of four, including a child with a heart defect, but exclude treatment of that condition from the policy.

Insurers say, until 2014, the law does not require them to write insurance at all for the child or the family. In the language of insurance, the law does not include a “guaranteed issue” requirement before then.

Consumer advocates worry that instead of refusing to cover treatment for a specific pre-existing condition, an insurer might simply deny coverage for the child or the family.

“If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place,” said Karen L. Pollitz, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

Starting in January 2014, health plans will be required to accept everyone who applies for coverage.

Until then, people with pre-existing conditions could seek coverage in high-risk insurance pools run by states or by the secretary of health and human services.


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