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March 30, 2010 - Insurance Lobby Concedes on Healthcare Language

U.S. health insurance companies said Monday they will comply with government regulations on covering children with pre-existing conditions.

America's Health Insurance Plans -- the main lobbying organization for health insurance interests -- issued the statement after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told insurers in a letter she was prepared to issue regulations "in the weeks ahead ensuring that the term 'pre-existing exclusion' applies to both a child's access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan."

AHIP had said the law signed by President Barack Obama last week would only require insurers to cover children with pre-existing conditions who were already customers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In her letter, Sebelius said the regulations she plans to issue will require that, beginning in September, "children with pre-existing conditions may not be denied access to their parents' health insurance plan" and insurance companies "will no longer be allowed to insure a child, but exclude treatments for that child's pre-existing condition."

"I urge you to share this information with your members and to help ensure they cease any attempt to deny coverage to some of the youngest and most vulnerable Americans," Sebelius said.

A lawyer for insurance companies and employers says there is some question about the clear meaning of some language in the law, The New York Times reported Sunday.

"The fine print differs from the larger political message," he said. "If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost."

Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the report "outrageous."

"The ink has not yet dried on the healthcare reform bill, and already some deplorable health insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions," he said.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. -- chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a leading supporter of the legislation -- said the statement by a lawyer for insurance companies "exemplifies why we fought for this reform."

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