NBC Bay Area
The Department of Managed Health Care has set up a special help line to take your questions about children and health insurance. The phone number is 888-466-2219
Health care officials Tuesday urged parents of children with pre-existing health conditions to enroll them in more affordable individual private health insurance by a March 1 deadline.
Speaking at a news conference at Children's Hospital in Oakland, California Department of Managed Health Care Director Cindy Ehnes said that as a result of federal health care reform and a California law signed in 2010, health plans are prohibited from denying coverage to children under the age of 19 with pre-existing health conditions.
But Ehnes said parents need to act by March 1, which is the end of a two-month open enrollment period, to get the best rates for their children.
She said that after March 1, health plans still won't be able to deny coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions but will be allowed to charge up to double what is charged to healthier kids.
Until the federal health care reform bill was enacted last year, it was legal for insurers to refuse to provide health coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, according to Ehnes.
She said the chance to sign up for private health coverage is especially important for parents who previously tried to obtain coverage for their children but were denied because their child was sick, had a pre-existing condition or whose plans excluded coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Ehnes said fewer people have signed up for private insurance than she and other health experts had expected, and there was "a little panic" because only two weeks remain in the open enrollment period.
"We want to let people know they can get protection for their children," she said.
Ehnes said consumers who need more information or need help if a health plan denies coverage to a child can call the Department of Managed Care's health center at (888) 466-2219.
Bay City News