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September 23, 2010 / J. Shaw

Insurers Stop Selling Child-Only Policies Ahead of ObamaCare

Six months after President Barack Obama’s signature health care bill passed, major insurance companies are dropping child-only policies just days before the new law requires them to cover sick children, enraging health care advocates who accuse the insurers of abandoning society’s most vulnerable.

But the insurers say the new requirement would lead to unexpected and massive costs because parents can wait to buy coverage until their children are sick — the mandate requiring all Americans to carry insurance doesn’t kick in until 2014.

Under the new law, families can appeal decisions by insurers to an independent arbiter regardless of which state they live in or what type of coverage they have. They can also contact their state insurance commissioner.

“Today, if your health plan tells you it won’t cover a treatment your doctor recommends, or it refuses to pay the bill for your child’s last trip to the emergency room, you may not know where to turn,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a press release this summer announcing the new appeals regulations. “The Affordable Care Act provisions announced today will provide patients with new important new rights and resources that will help ensure they get the care they need.”

Among the new provisions of the new law that goes into effect Thursday is one that prevents insurers from excluding children under 19 with pre-existing conditions.

But Wellpoint, Cigna, Coventry, Aetna, Humana, United Health and BlueCross BlueShield announced they would no longer offer child-only policies. The move does not affect existing child-only plans, family policies or insurance offered to children through their parents’ employers.

It’s not clear how many children will be affected by this new action.

Health insurers said their decision was based on uncertain market conditions.

“Given current health insurance market dynamics and regulations, it is necessary to require a parent to be on a policy in the same manner as is required on an employer group plan,” Tyler Mason, a spokesman for United Health Care, said in a statement. “We continue to believe that regulations can be structured that will enable child-only plans to be offered and we are working toward that goal.”



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