The uninsured problem, though, continues to grow as the high unemployment rate persists. A newly released Census Bureau report found the number of Americans without health insurance climbed sharply in 2009 to its highest level -- 50.7 million.
A central goal of health care reform is to cover millions more Americans. And in 2014, when reform is fully implemented, individuals would be required to have coverage or face a penalty. Another key change for 2014: Insurers won’t be able to charge more for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
A related reform provision kicking in this week -- that health plans accept children with pre-existing conditions -- has hit a snag. Some major health insurers have decided to stop offering new child-only health policies, which often are purchased by unemployed parents or those who don’t have dependent coverage in their health plans.
The Denver Post reported that at least six major insurers -- including Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and Humana -- have said they would stop writing new policies for individual children, citing health reform mandates.
An industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said that insurers would accept children with pre-existing conditions in other plans. But a spokesman, Robert Zirkelbach, also told The Washington Post that including that coverage in child-only plans ‘’provides a very powerful incentive for a parent to wait until their child becomes very sick before purchasing coverage.’’
DeParle says the insurers’ exodus from child-only plans is disappointing.
The administration has pushed tougher scrutiny of health insurance practices, including big premium increases. DeParle cited a decision by Blue Cross and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to refund $155.8 million to about 215,000 individual policyholders, a move related to reform changes. Insurance commissioners are starting to scrutinize rate increase requests more as a result of reform, she said.