Health Care

Child-only health policy is too risky, insurers say

As have carriers across the nation, some Kansas health insurance companies have suspended the sale of child-only policies, a small part of their market that they say has become too financially risky to continue.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas; Coventry Health Care of Kansas, which owns Preferred Health Systems; and Aetna said they will continue policies in force but will not sell new ones. They will continue to provide child coverage through individual and group family policies.

Humana also is reported to have stopped the sale of the child-only policies.

Thursday was the effective date for some provisions of the health care overhaul, including one that prohibits insurers from exclusions based on pre-existing conditions for those 19 and younger.

Spokesmen for the carriers said requiring guaranteed coverage without the ability to spread the risk made it too financially risky to continue the policies.

Mary Beth Chambers, a Blue Cross spokesman, said her company sold about 500 child-only policies annually and has about 2,100 in force. That's among more than 680,000 people covered in Kansas.

Regulations currently in force would allow someone to delay coverage until it was needed, she said, and then to drop it once it no longer was needed.

"It pains us to make this business decision, but it's a little bit of the reality of health care reform and the current marketplace," she said. "It's challenging to take all comers ahead of any sort of mandate" to require coverage.

Scot Roskelley, a spokesman for Aetna, said in an e-mail that his company is "committed to working with regulators and others to create a regulatory environment where affordable child-only policies can exist."