KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Relief, And Some Concern, As Health Law’s New Protections For Children Begin

News outlets detailed how, beginning tomorrow, certain provisions in the health law affect parents and children.

Kaiser Health News, in partnership with USA Today: "Starting tomorrow, adult children will no longer be left to fend for themselves in their search for health insurance. The new federal health law requires that insurers give parents the option of keeping their adult children covered until they're 26 years old. It becomes effective for the health policy at the beginning of the plan year. New individual and group health plans that provide family benefits are required to extend coverage to young adult children, including those who had previously fallen off their parents' plans. However, if a child has an offer of insurance through a job, some group plans that were in existence when the law was enacted on March 23 can exclude the young adults from their parents' coverage. That exemption expires in 2014" (Zamosky, 9/22).

The San Diego Union-Tribune: "Young adults represent the largest group of uninsured people in the United States, and this change is aimed at shrinking that number. Federal officials estimate 1.8 million young adults could benefit out of a possible 8 million uninsured. … Kamal Muilenburg of San Diego called the reform a huge relief. ... Some of the reforms are stopgap measures until 2014, when most people will be required to have insurance and insurance exchanges will be established for individuals and small businesses to shop for policies at lower cost" (Lavelle, 9/21).

As new provisions kick in, some insurers have decided to stop selling child-only insurance policies, fearing parents will only decide to buy a policy the child become sick.

Los Angeles Times: "Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna Inc. and others will halt new child-only policies in California, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut and elsewhere as early as Thursday when provisions of the nation's new healthcare law take effect, including a requirement that insurers cover children under age 19 regardless of their health histories. The action will apply only to new coverage sought for children and not to existing child-only plans, family policies or insurance provided to youngsters through their parents' employers. An estimated 80,000 California children currently without insurance - and as many as 500,000 nationwide - would be affected, according to experts" (Helfand, 9/21).

PBS Newshour blog: "Critics say the move is an end-run around a key component of the new law, and that the insurance companies are betraying their promise to support the changes. But industry representatives say that the move is a necessary response to the new rules and that it will still leave children with plenty of insurance options." That part of the insurance market is "very small," however, covering between 100,000 and 700,000 kids nationally. "The administration tried to address [insurer] concern earlier this summer by saying that insurers would still be allowed to designate open-enrollment periods [- a window of time when parents would be forced to decide if they should cover their children for the year or not -] for the plans. But insurers were not swayed" (Winerman, 9/21).

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the impact of the law is "being felt largely by state workers nationwide whose job is to implement the law - and thus begin the mammoth task of transforming the care Americans receive." In the meantime, "creating an entirely new health insurance marketplace is falling on state health agencies during a recession that has cut their budgets. And staffs - trimmed by layoffs, early retirements, furloughs and hiring freezes - are feeling the strain. … But applying for the [state implementation] grants isn't easy, and experts are starting to wonder if states with depleted budgets - such as California, Oklahoma and Virginia - can keep up with the conveyer belt of grant opportunities and account for millions of dollars once the money is awarded" (Fears and Sun, 9/22).

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