California officials are urging parents to enroll their children in health plans under a new state law that requires private insurers to offer children's coverage under all policies, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The law (AB 2244), by Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), took effect Jan. 1. It allows parents to sign their children up for coverage during an open enrollment period that runs until March 1, or in the month after their child's birthday.
Under the law, insurers that fail to offer child-only coverage are prohibited from selling new policies in the wider individual insurance market for five years.
Last fall, some of California's largest private health plans stopped selling individual policies for children to get around a provision in the federal health reform law that required them to cover individuals younger than age 19, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.
Insurance companies said the provision would encourage parents to purchase coverage only after their children became sick.
Touting the New Law
During a Tuesday news conference at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) said the new law prohibits insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing medical conditions or charging more than twice the standard premium. However, families that apply for coverage outside the enrollment period might face higher rates, Jones said.
Feuer also spoke at the news conference and encouraged parents to sign their children up for coverage.
The conference was the first in a series of events planned by the state Department of Insurance to raise awareness of the new children's coverage law (Ceasar, Los Angeles Times, 1/27).