Parents to enrol children in insurance plan15th February 2011
US officials are trying to encourage parents of uninsured children to enrol their children in health insurance programmes.
Thousands of children who previously had no coverage, or who could only get it for raised premiums, because of existing medical conditions could be affected.
Under new rules that took effect last year, insurers are barred from denying health coverage to children with chronic health conditions.
California-based insurers may not charge premiums more than double the rate of covering healthy children.
However, the current window of opportunity for enrolment will only last until 1 March, and parents must rush to sign up by then if they want to qualify under the new scheme.
If they miss the deadline, they will have to wait until their child's next birthday.
Campaigners are urging parents to take advantage of the offer now.
Kelly Hardy, health policy director for Children Now, an Oakland-based child advocacy organisation, said the matter was an urgent one, and that children should sign up now.
She said children suffering from chronic health conditions had always found it hard to get coverage.
Families could end up paying a premium many times higher than the premium for a healthy child, she added.
Washington-based health advocacy group Families USA say that there are more than 575,000 children in California alone who have pre-existing conditions that could potentially lead to denial of coverage.
Most of those whose parents are part of group policies covered by their employers will get coverage.
The new rules affect those who buy their own health insurance on the individual market.
California has passed legislation which would ban companies from the individual market for five years if they refused to sell policies to children.
The move came after some insurers stopped issuing child-only policies in California.
As many as 162,000 children in California could gain full health insurance cover under federal rules that went into effect in January.
Around 1.5 million children in California currently lack health cover, according to researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles.
State government health official Cindy Ehnes has also joined the campaign to encourage parents to sign their children up before the deadline.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said that the initial open-enrollment window was critical, because insurers were not required to limit their premiums if the child was signed up after the deadline.
The window reopens in the month of a child's birthday and amid changes in family circumstances, however.
The changes have sparked fears that insurers will raise rates for healthy children to offset the cost of the reforms.
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Title: Parents to enrol children in insurance plan
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 17572
Date Added: 15th Feb 2011