Insurer must offer child-only policies, state says

  • Fri Oct 15th, 2010 10:12pm
  • News

By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer

Regence BlueShield’s recent decision to stop selling new individual health insurance plans for children is illegal, the state Insurance Commissioner’s office said Friday.

“We think the law is extremely clear,” said Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the state Insurance Commissioner’s office. “We can’t force them to sell insurance in a market, but if they’re going to do it, they cannot discriminate against somebody based on age,” she said.

The individual child policies must continue to be offered, she said.

In a statement late Friday afternoon, Regence said it was shocked by the move.

The company met with Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler and his staff five times about the pending change, it said.

“Never once did the commissioner or his staff express any concern that these changes might violate state law,” it added.

The child-only plans are typically bought by families working for businesses that offer health insurance to their employees only, not their family members.

Last month, Regence announced that it would no longer offer new “child-only” insurance policies in Washington to children 18 and under, the first company in the state to make the move.

Regence’s announcement did not affect any of its 2,500 current child-only health insurance policies, according to a company spokeswoman.

Most children are covered either through individual family or group plans.

Regence has 90 days to request a hearing on the state action, Marquis said, which in essence would force the company to reverse its decision to stop selling new “child-only” insurance policies. Appeals can be made to a hearing office in the state Insurance Commissioner’s office or in Thurston County Superior Court.

The Regence statement did not indicate if the company planned to appeal the decision.

Nine other insurance plans currently offer new child-only policies insurance in Washington. The two largest, Premera Blue Cross and Group Health, said they would continue to sell new child-only policies, Marquis said.

The enrollment period for buying new child-only health plans runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 for policies that go into effect Jan. 1.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com