Denying Coverage to Children is Illegal, Washington Commissioner Says

October 20, 2010

Mike Kreidler, Insurance Commissioner for the state of Washington has issued an order to Regence BlueShield telling them to stop illegally refusing to cover children. Last week, the company announced it would no longer sell policies to children, but according to Kreidler, “Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, all health plans are legally required to cover children with pre-existing conditions. In order to accommodate insurance industry concerns that such children would only be enrolled when they became sick, however, the federal government enabled individual states to create special open enrollments.

Kreidler issued an emergency order creating such an enrollment period which will run from November 1st through December 15th, during which time those seeking individual health plans for their entire family or only for their kids can enroll them without having to participate in an exam.

In response to this, Regence BlueShield, the largest health insurer in the individual market notified the commissioner’s office that it would stop selling individual health insurance policies to children effective October 1, 2010.

Commissioner Kriedler said, “Regence’s decision had a serious impact on Washington families and could’ve had a devastating impact on the insurance market. 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.

Kreidler added, “Hundreds of consumers have contacted my office, upset over Regence refusing to cover kids and for blaming its recent rate increases on health reform. 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.”