March 30, 2010

Boy, these insurance companies really have hearts of gold, don't they? They finally agree they won't kick out sick kids - "but it'll cost you." They're going to milk every last dime out of this until the new law kicks in:

Insurers said they would comply with regulations the government issues requiring them to cover children with pre-existing conditions, after a dispute with lawmakers over interpretation of the new health-care legislation.

The Obama administration has made near-immediate coverage for sick children a priority in its health-care overhaul. But shortly after the bill's passage last week, insurers contended that the law didn't require them to accept sick children until 2014.

The insurance industry's lobby, America's Health Insurance Plans, initially said the law meant only that they needed to cover treatments for sick children who already were customers.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, sent AHIP president Karen Ignagni a letter Monday pledging to issue new regulations in coming weeks to clarify that insurers must take applications from sick children starting in September. "Now is not the time to search for non-existent loopholes that preserve a broken system," Ms. Sebelius said.

AHIP said de-linking the requirement to insure sick children from the law's mandate that everyone buy health-insurance coverage, which goes into effect in 2014, could drive up prices in the meantime. But the group said it would do whatever HHS tells it to do.

[...] Roughly eight million children remain uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but just 1% to 2%—or 80,000 to 160,000—have a health condition such as cystic fibrosis or cancer that would disqualify them from private insurance coverage, said Sara Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the health-policy department at George Washington University and a children's health-care expert. Many of those children's families were unaware they could qualify for Medicaid or CHIP assistance or enroll in an employer plan, she said.

"We're talking nationwide about a handful of children" who might benefit from expanded private coverage, Ms. Rosenbaum said. "I can't imagine why insurance companies are fighting this so hard."

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