Washington's insurance commissioner stepped in today to force Regent Blue Shield -- the state's largest provider of insurance to children -- to keep selling children-only health care plans.
"Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age," reads a statement from Mike Kreidler. "I was shocked and deeply disappointed when Regence announced its decision last week to stop selling insurance to kids."
One of the earliest-implemented -- and most popular -- provisions of the new health care law forbids insurance companies from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. Rebelling against the policy, insurance companies have threatened or attempted to stop selling children-only plans. New Hampshire's insurance commissioner likewise stepped in to block the maneuver.
To prevent the "free-rider" problem, where parents would buy insurance policies for their children after they get sick, the law provides for a brief open-enrollment period, during which children can get insurance without first getting a medical screening. With four days notice, Regence informed Kreidler that the company would eliminate children's plans.
"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."