Open enrollment for California children with pre-existing conditions lasts through March 1

A key provision of the federal health care reform law prohibits health insurance companies from denying coverage to children suffering from asthma, diabetes, or other health conditions considered to be a pre-existing condition. Yet, the cost of that health insurance may still be simply too much for parents to pay as only limited price controls exist until the law goes fully into effect in 2014. 

As such, California officials and health care advocates are working hard to encourage parents to seek health care coverage during open enrollment – January 1 through March 1, 2011 – while caps are in place on what health insurance companies charge.  During open enrollment, health insurance companies cannot charge more than twice the amount for a child with a pre-existing condition as compared to one without. However, if the two-month window is missed, parents will have to wait until the month of the child’s birthday or when other events trigger eligibility, like a parent being laid-off or losing health care coverage. Outside these special enrollment periods, insurance companies will be able to charge whatever they like. Currently, nearly 576,000 California children have some kind of medical issue that prevents them from being able to obtain health insurance coverage. 

Parents’ dollars may go farther than they think. Also under the federal health care reform law, preventative health care services no longer require a co-pay or need to meet a deductible to be covered. By eliminating these traditional costs, parents may be able afford the comprehensive coverage their children need.

The enrollment periods are not just to get kids covered, but to ensure health insurance companies are protected as well. California officials believe that the enrollment periods will encourage parents to avoid signing their children up for health insurance coverage when their child gets sick or injured.

For more information on how to insure children, parents and guardians are encouraged to check the website of the California Department of Insurance at www.insurance.ca.gov.