Here's a fun exercise: pull your writing hand as far away from your body as possible, make a fist, then drive that fist as hard as you can into the side of your face. That's precisely what a Who's Who of major insurance companies did this week when they stopped selling health insurance policies for children because they didn't like the terms set forth by the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, that went into effect Thursday.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the nation's top health insurance underwriters, including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna and UnitedHealth Group, have decided to cease writing new "child-only" policies in various states rather than comply with the new healthcare reforms.
The major reason: the ACA requires insurers to cover people younger than 19 regardless of their health histories or preexisting conditions. A good bet as runner-up reasons: Insurers can no longer put lifetime dollar limits on benefits or cancel policies when the insured gets sick.
The report cites state and national experts as saying "as many as an estimated 500,000 children nationwide could be affected." Affected as in shut out.
In response, Anthem Blue Cross explained its decision this way: "Unfortunately, this has created an unlevel competitive environment." The companies say they sell relatively few kids-only policies anyway. Which I guess means their shareholders are cool with dropping the little underperformers.
In response to the health insurance cabal's response, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs shot back: “It's obviously very unfortunate that insurance companies continue to make decisions on the backs of children and families that need their help." The assumption is that, lacking a private insurance option, very sick kids will end up on the already-stretched-thin public health program.
Big insurance doesn't walk away from any potential revenue stream easily or without careful consideration. And given their public image of late, they're hardly inclined to invite criticism. Standing on the yacht and deciding not to throw a lifeline to a drowning kid would seem foolhardy at best in any "competitive environment."
And yet, there it is. Business decision, don't you know. Uneven playing field and whatnot, pip pip. Terribly inconvenient for us but we'll soldier on.
Tell it to the parents. Tell it to the kids.
Can someone please explain how cutting off sick children is the right thing to do? I'd especially love to hear from any health insurance brokers and agents out there.
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