Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Want a health plan for your kids? Enrollment starts today

If you're looking to add your children to your own individual health plan or want to buy health insurance for your children, you have from today through April 30 to do so.

Be sure to apply early. In most cases, applications received after March 20 will not have coverage until May 1.

This is the first of two open-enrollment periods this year for children in the individual health insurance market -- the second is from Sept. 15-Oct. 31. During these times, health plans cannot screen children or deny them coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Federal health care reform prevents health insurers from deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical condition. However, individual plans -- like most employer-sponsored health plans -- can create open-enrollment periods.

If you need a health plan outside of the enrollment dates, you can apply either to the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP), or if you qualify, to the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP-WA).

Exceptions where you can apply for individual coverage anytime include the birth or adoption of a child or if a child or parent:
No longer qualifies for a state program.
  • Loses coverage due to a divorce.
  • Loses employer-sponsored coverage (including COBRA).
  • Moves and their plan is not available where they live now.
In 2014, when the full federal health reforms take effect, no one of any age can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.