Health Inc.

Sebelius To Insurers: Cover Kids, Or Else

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius looks on as Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sand

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius looks on as Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger (left) speaks at a White House meeting with insurance executives last month. Brendan Hoffman-Pool/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Brendan Hoffman-Pool/Getty Images

Just when it seemed the nation's health insurers couldn't get any worse press, they showed it was possible.

Democrats said that their new health law would block insurers from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. The provisions were set to take effect in September.

Insurers were sizing up the legislative fine print and figured the law would let them out of insuring kids with preexisting health problems if they didn't insure the family.

Well, it didn't take any time at all for reports to surface of insurers rejecting kids from coverage. One wrenching case involved a Texas newborn with a congenital heart defect.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius zipped off a tart letter to Karen Ignagni, head of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, to end any "ambiguity" on the coverage of kids. Sebelius said she's ready to issue regulation in the next few weeks to make things absolutely clear, and they'll go like this:

  • Children with preexisting conditions may not be denied access to their parents' health insurance plan;
  • Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to insure a child, but exclude treatments for that child's pre-existing condition.

For good measure Sebelius included a statement from Congressmen Henry Waxman, Sander Levin and George Miller saying they "fully expect" the law will stop insurers from denying coverage to kids. Adding, "The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform...."

Message received. Ignagni replied, "With respect to the provisions related to coverage for children, we await and will fully comply with regulations consistent with the principles described in your letter."

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