The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, recently announced a national coalition dedicated to enrolling five million children in Medicaid and CHIP within five years. “Nothing is more important to our future than the health of our children. No child should have to skip a doctor’s appointment or go without the medicine they need because their family can’t pay,” said Secretary Sebelius. The Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge is one symbol of the Obama administration’s commitment to the health of children in America.
“That’s great,” you may say, “but it’s pretty easy to prioritize health care for kids. Who wouldn’t want to make sure children are healthy?”
Good question. The answer is private health insurance companies.
At the same moment HHS was highlighting their initiative to gain health coverage for five million kids, Aetna announced that it would stop selling health insurance policies for children in most states after October 1st. This is their response to new rules enacted in health care reform that prevent health insurance companies from denying health insurance to kids based on pre-existing conditions–rules which were intended to ensure that kids, regardless of health status, have access to health insurance and, thus, health care. Rules that were intended to keep private health insurance from choosing greed above the health needs of children. Rules that Aetna has figured out how to thwart, despite the repercussions their actions will have for kids in America.
Aetna isn’t alone. In Colorado, they will be joined by UHC, Assurant, Humana and possibly Cigna. Most certainly this trend will continue across the country because, after all, who wants to get stuck covering all those sick kids? It may come as no surprise that private health insurance companies are putting their profit margins above providing health coverage for children, but it’s a sad testament to the state of corporate America and reinforces the need for even stronger regulations to prevent this bad behavior.