10/15/2010 - OLYMPIA, Wash. - Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler ordered Regence BlueShield this morning to stop illegally denying insurance to children, effective immediately.
"Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age," said Kreidler. "I was shocked and deeply disappointed when Regence announced its decision last week to stop selling insurance to kids."
The Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to cover kids with pre-existing conditions. However, to accommodate the insurance industry's concerns that people would only enroll their children when they became sick, the federal government let states create a special open enrollment period.
Kreidler issued an emergency rule creating a special enrollment period from Nov. 1-Dec. 15. During this time, anyone looking for an individual health plan for their families or just their children can enroll their kids without having to take a health screen.
Regence Blue Shield, the largest health insurer in the individual market, notified Kreidler on Sept. 27 that, effective Oct. 1, it would no longer sell individual health insurance policies to kids.
"Regence's decision had a serious impact on Washington families and could've had a devastating impact on the insurance market," said Kreidler. "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.
Anyone who wants to add their child to their own individual health plan this year or who wants to buy a plan for just their child or children for an effective date of Jan. 1, must do so during the open enrollment period (Nov. 1-Dec. 15).
"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 Kreidler. "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."
Editor's note: We'll also be posting mp3 audio clips from Commissioner Kreidler on our media resources page: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/news/media/index.shtml