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Oregon Insurance Company Stops Issuing New Child-Only Policies
Author: David Nogueras, OPB News
Posted: September 23, 2010

The first provisions of the federal health care overhaul kicked in Thursday. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to sick kids.

But many insurers, including Oregon’s largest one, have responded by not issuing new child-only policies.

For Oregon’s Regence BlueCross BlueShield the decision comes down to this: if parents can wait until their kids become sick to buy insurance there isn’t anything preventing then from doing just that.

That’s why many major insurers say they’ve stopped issuing new child-only policies in the last week. But some health care advocates aren’t convinced the decision is purely an economic one.

Laura Etherton: “I think that this can be seen as a little bit of a game of chicken going on between the insurance companies and the public.”

Laura Etherton is with the non-profit Oregon State Public Interest Research Group.  She says according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the increased costs would be negligible.

Laura Etherton: “There’s a little bit of an attempt to scare people in to thinking well maybe we won’t cover anybody at all any more and that’s disappointing."

Some insurers in Oregon will continue writing new child-only plans. 

Another option is Oregon’s Healthy Kids Program. That’s open to all Oregon residents younger than 19 and covers the cost of health insurance for families with modest incomes.