Thanks to some regulatory nudging from Utah, insurance companies are, once again, offering policies to cover children without their parents. That is a welcome relief to parents who cannot afford coverage for themselves but nonetheless want to be able to keep their children healthy.
And it's further evidence that good things can happen when states and the federal government are both working toward a common goal; in this case, the well-being of all Utah children.
Utah's largest insurers, faced with a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act that required them to cover all children, including those with pre-existing medical conditions, took the seemingly easy way out and, instead, dropped all children-only policies. They said they feared that parents would wait until their child was diagnosed with an expensive-to-treat illness or suffered a serious injury before signing them up.
Utah and eight other states then required insurers to reinstate children-only plans, and Utah made the decision easier on the insurance companies by limiting enrollment to two sign-up periods each year. That provision would lower the risk of parents deciding not to buy insurance for their healthy children but instead waiting for a costly emergency before signing up.
Utah insurance companies responded by dropping all children-only policies, dubiously arguing that was their only option because the law states they have to treat all children in the Beehive State the same.
State regulators rightly refused to stand by while insurers played games with the welfare of Utah children.
They allowed children with pre-existing health problems to be covered through the state-sponsored high-risk insurance pool and sent certificates of insurability to insurers for healthy children so the companies would cover them.
The insurers are happy because they don't run the risk of insuring mostly sick children, and parents can breathe easier because their sick children and their well children have coverage.
A new federal study reports on the outcome of efforts among the states, including Utah, to make health insurance available to more people by recognizing how insurance companies are affected by government rules and working to mitigate the impact.
Utah deserves the high marks it received in the study. As more provisions of the ACA are implemented, such cooperation is essential.
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