Last fall, when the law began requiring coverage for children under the age of 19 to be guaranteed issue, most of the major individual health insurance carriers in Colorado stopped issuing new child-only policies. Carriers will still issue coverage on a guaranteed-issue basis (although the pricing can be adjusted based on medical history) to children under 19 as long as the primary applicant on the policy is an adult, and existing child-only policies were not impacted.
Kaiser Permanente and Rocky Mountain Health Plans continued to offer child-only policies. Individual policies with Kaiser are only available in the Denver/Boulder metro area (this is true of all of their individual policies, not just those for children).
In an effort to convince carriers to continue to offer individual child-only health insurance policies, the Colorado Division of Insurance implemented an open-enrollment system that would allow carriers to accept new child-only applications during January and July each year, with enrollment closed during the rest of the year. The idea was that such a system would help to prevent parents from waiting until their children needed medical treatment before applying for coverage. But as of yet, the major carriers that opted out of the child-only market have not returned.
A press release on Marketwire this week from eHealth, Inc. gives some answers to common questions about the open-enrollment period currently underway in Colorado for child-only policies. While the details of the answers are technically correct, the article doesn’t really address the fact that the vast majority of carriers are not currently offering child-only plans in Colorado, even during the open enrollment period. They note that the law “…prevents insurance companies that offer child-only plans (to applicants age 18 and younger) from declining an applicant based on his or her medical history or the presence of any pre-existing medical conditions.” I added the bold type there, because that’s the crux of the issue. Most carriers simply don’t offer child-only plans right now in Colorado, so the details pertaining to open enrollment periods and guaranteed issue don’t apply.
You can still get quotes for child-only plans, but the only options that will appear on quote engines that work with major health insurance carriers are Rocky Mountain Health Plans, and Kaiser Permanente for people in the Denver/Boulder area. We wanted to clarify this point in case there is confusion surrounding the open enrollment period. It’s unknown whether the other major carriers will be able to find a way to make child-only coverage a profitable venture as time goes by, but for now, the options are still quite limited in the child-only market in Colorado, regardless of the open enrollment window.