Up to 10,000 Georgia children could get health insurance this week thanks to a compromise crafted by Georgia lawmakers. Legislation passed last year gave Georgia parents and legal guardians the option of signing their children up for private insurance policies through January 31st of this year.
Lawmakers acted in response to some families being denied coverage for their kids. All health insurance companies in Georgia stopped offering child-only policies in response to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. It requires insurers to cover children with pre-existing conditions.
“So insurers were worried they would get only sicker kids,” said Cindy Zeldin, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “And then once one insurance company pulled out, then the others sort of had to follow in order to remain competitive. Or at least that’s what they claimed ” Zeldin said.
And she says the organization started getting a lot of calls. “Parents were just mystified that this could really be true. That they could call every insurance company in Georgia saying ‘I would like to purchase a health insurance plan for my child. I’m perfectly willing to pay whatever premium you quote me.’ And they said ‘Sorry we don’t sell those policies.’”
The state currently has more than 236,000 uninsured children, according to Voices for Georgia’s Children.
Dante McKay, the group’s Associate Policy Director for Child Health, said the General Assembly stepped in to fill the gap for those needy children.
“For families that may be hard-working families and may not be able to purchase coverage through their employer. Or their employer may stop offering coverage. They make too much, so they’re not eligible for PeachCare or Medicaid. They didn’t have any other options,” he said.
Seven insurance companies are offering the child-only health insurance policies -- Aetna, BlueCross Blue Shield, Cigna, Coventry, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and United HealthCare.
McKay says the new policies apply to children under the age of 19. The deadline to sign up is Thursday.
The legislation only applies until 2014 when the Affordable Care Act expands coverage to everyone.