For many Americans, the new provisions in health care reform have brought about welcome changes. The Affordable Care Act has increased coverage for millions of people who previously did not have access to health insurance, with future plans to prevent existing abuses committed by the insurance industry. One demographic slated to benefit from such changes is families with children–insurance companies may no longer exclude children on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and parents may continue to insure their dependent children up until they reach the age of 26. However, this recent article in the New York Times [Child-Only Insurance Vanishes, a Health Act Victim] called attention to a group of children who would not stand to benefit from the plan. Twelve-year-old Aria Green has been raised by her grandparents since she was an infant, but as her aging caretakers approach their 65th birthdays and prepare for the switch from employer-offered coverage to Medicare, Aria will be left without coverage. In response to the Affordable Care Act and its ban on excluding children under the age of 19 on the basis of pre-existing conditions, insurance companies across the nation have decided not to offer new child-only policies, claiming that doing so would force them to write a new policy for every child. Her family’s income does not allow her to qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and because she does not have any pre-existing conditions, she cannot apply for a high-risk pool. For Aria and for other children whose circumstances do not allow them to be covered under employer-based insurance or traditional family plans, the new health care overhaul has left them with few options.
Legislation to provide coverage for these children and their families is currently pending. However, new legislation often takes several years to be ratified. What will become of Aria and other children when the clock runs out on their families’ plans? And what can be done to help in the meantime?