In 2010 Obamacare banned insurers from denying coverage to kids with histories of health problems. As the provision was about to take effect, at least 6 insurers said they would stop writing new policies for children not already covered by their parents. Insurers said the new law would significantly increase their costs. Now two years later, NPR brings news that child-only policies are being revived.
A recent report from the Commonwealth Fund found that since the law passed in 2010, 22 states and the District of Columbia have passed new laws encouraging insurers to sell child-only plans. Some states made selling such policies a condition of being allowed to offer other individual plans. Others established defined open enrollment periods during which the policies are sold as a way to discourage parents from waiting until a child is sick to buy coverage.
Although these efforts are improving children’s access to coverage, they generally don’t address the cost of this coverage. So far, California is the only state that limits the amount insurance companies can charge for a child-only policy. California law states that if someone buys coverage during the annual open enrollment period, which coincides with the child’s birthday month, the insurer can charge no more than twice the amount for a policy than it would charge for a typical healthy child. There are no rate restrictions if someone buys outside the open enrollment period.
Child-only policies were available in most states before the 2010 law, and are still sold on the individual market for children younger than 19 who don’t have a parent or guardian covered under the same policy. In 2014, insurers will no longer be permitted to deny coverage to anyone with a preexisting condition, child or adult, and these child-only coverage laws will no longer be necessary.