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Most Missouri health insurance companies drop child-only policies

Thursday, September 23, 2010 | 10:21 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — While the White House, insurance departments and policyholders across the country anticipated compliance with federal health care law provisions implemented Sept. 23, major insurance companies had something else in mind: ending their child-only policies.

"Right now, there's almost no child-only stuff left in Missouri," said Travis Ford, communications director for the Missouri Department of Insurance. "If you blink, a lot of things change."

Only days before the law that forbade denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions took effect, insurance companies nationwide released statements saying they would no longer offer child-only plans, Ford said.

"The fear is — and this is a legitimate concern — that since all children have to be accepted, no matter what their health condition is, that some parents might wait until their kids get sick to then buy insurance from them," Ford said. "Insurance doesn't work very well if only sick people buy it."

Until this week, many insurance companies said they planned to continue providing child-only policies.

"The insurance protection lobby, AHIP, had previously stated their willingness to abide by the law and not make the decision that we see several of these insurers made," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Gibbs said that although child-only policies make up a small percentage of the individual health insurance market, he was still disappointed in the decision to eliminate the coverage.

"I think it's obviously very unfortunate that insurance companies continue to make decisions on the backs of children and families that need their help," he said.

The state's largest insurer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, currently provides 1,500 child-only policies in Missouri, Ford said. Those plans represent roughly 2 percent of the company's total individual plans, he said.

"As long as those (existing) contracts last, they'll be enforced," Ford said. However, when a policyholder tries to renew a current plan, he said, "It might go away."

Two representatives for Anthem did not return calls made Thursday afternoon.

Ford said the insurance department is trying to persuade the companies to bring back the child-only policies.

"(State insurance departments) are working with these carriers to try to work out a negotiation to where they can continue offering this product in a way that's financially feasible for both the insurance company and the consumer," Ford said. "Whether or not those talks and negotiations will be successful, we don't know, but we would like to see this product still be offered in Missouri."

The insurance department was not aware of the changes in policy offerings until they were reported by the press, Ford said.

"There's no requirement that they inform us of plans to discontinue products," Ford said. "They have to get our approval if they start offering a product but not if they discontinue."


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Comments

Paul Imhoff September 24, 2010 | 2:56 p.m.

Gibbs again shows us why he and his boss are a couple of the biggest nit-wits in political history. Insurance companies do not exist to give away money to "children and families that need their help". They are a business you fool!!! They exist to make a profit for owners and shareholders by selling a competitive product. The problem is your stupid Obamacare law takes away their ability to make a profit by selling their products. It really is that simple you dunce!

FTA: "Insurance doesn't work very well if only sick people buy it."

This administration is in well over its head if they don't understand these very simple economic concepts.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote September 24, 2010 | 4:00 p.m.

This article quotes only one insurance company that offers private plans in Missouri. It is understandable that they chose Anthem for their quote as it controls 68% of the private health care market in Missouri. How much more competitive would prices be if there was actually competition for our health insurance dollars. Rather than placing the health reform bill in a poor light, I think this turn of events exposes why we needed reform in the first place. That these insurance companies are exempt from certain anti-trust laws is a major part of the problem with the health insurance market. I'd be interested to hear the argument from those opposed to health care reform in general and the public option in particular on why these for-profits should be exempt from anti-trust laws and thus be allowed to operate as monopolies. Moreover how is offering a government administrated alternative in the absence of any real competition deleterious to health insurance consumers vis a vis rates and quality of care delivered.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 24, 2010 | 9:32 p.m.

Does Anthem have 68% of the market because the offer a better product, because they can better manage the regulatory requirements and insurance mandates from the state than their competition can, or another reason?

(Report Comment)

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