Insurance Commissioner Kreidler Stands Up for Children in Washington State
"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.
By Cathy Hope, Georgetown Center for Children and Families