Gaps in Health Care Protection for Children

When will children with pre-existing conditions be covered with the new health care reform legislation?

The Associated Press reported March 23, “The Obama administration is scrambling to fix a potential problem with a much-touted benefit of its new health care law, a gap in coverage improvements for children in poor health, officials said Tuesday.” 

This is a big concern for many Americans including myself because I have a four year old son who was first hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (commonly known as RSV) and Bronchiolitis at five months old.  Since then he has had pneumonia and several other respiratory problems a few times a year.  This history of respiratory problems could be considered a pre-existing condition and if we choose to switch insurances, I worried a new insurance company could refuse him coverage. 

President Obama has talked about how the new protections for children in this bill at nearly every speech advocating its passage.  This was one of the things in the health care bill I supported whole-heartedly. 

When as spokesperson for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said full protection for children would not come until 2014, I felt misled and angry.  Why is the legislation so complex that even the President can’t understand it fully? Or did Obama knowingly mislead the American public? 

On Friday March 19, Obama spoke to an audience at George Mason University in a campaign-like speech and said, “This is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids.  Starting this year, thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions will be able to purchase health insurance, some for the first time.  Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage–this year.” The crowd cheered and I was also pleased. 

Obama didn’t sound a bit confused then.  How could he have been wrong about something so important?

The administration assured reporters on March 22 that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would resolve the situation by issuing yet more regulations.  HHS spokesman Nick Papas said, “To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, the secretary of HHS is preparing to issue regulations next month making it clear that the term ‘pre-existing’ exclusion applies to both a child’s access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan for all plans newly sold in this country six months from today.” 

I don’t feel assured and I’m left with more questions.  Why isn’t legislation more transparent?  Is it written to intentionally mislead and confuse Americans?  Critical thinkers must demand more of our elected officials.