Washington, Regence battle over children's health coverage

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Regence BlueShield, the state's largest individual health insurer, are clashing over whether Regence must provide individual children's health coverage.

Kriedler said it is illegal for health insurers to stop selling coverage to children while continuing to sell to adults. He accused Regence of violating a Washington state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age, according to The Oregonian.

While the insurance commissioner can't order companies to offer insurance, he can, under a 2000 state law, prohibit them from offering health insurance only to specific age groups. If Regence wants to offer individual policies, it must offer them equally to people of all ages, Kreidler spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis told The Olympian.

"Hundreds of consumers have contacted my office, upset over Regence refusing to cover kids and for blaming its recent rate increases on health reform," Kreidler said in a statement. "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," he said.

In response, Regence accused Kreidler, who is running for re-election, of "gross politicization." Regence is "shocked" at Kriedler's actions because it had at least five conversations with the commissioner's office regarding planned changes to covering children under age 19. "Our goal in those discussions was and continues to be a solution that would allow us to serve all of our individual members--including children--without exacerbating costs and increasing coverage risks for the entire pool," Regence said in a statement.

The insurance company added that it has continued to insure its members despite losses of more than $33 million in the last three years. It is now studying how the commissioner's order will affect its ability to offer individual policies in Washington, notes The Olympian.

To learn more:
- see The Oregonian story
- read The Olympian article
- check out the Washington Insurance Commissioner's press release
- see Regence's response

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