Business

Individual health plan enrollment for kids starts March 15

Want to buy an individual health plan for your child or enroll them in your health plan? You're first chance to do so this year is from March 15-April 30.

The next open-enrollment period this year is Sept. 15-Oct. 31.

"I urge people looking for coverage for their kids to apply early," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. "If you wait to apply, your coverage could be delayed until May. If you experience difficulty or have questions, call our Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-562-6900."

These open enrollment periods apply to all health plans in the individual market. People buying individual coverage don't have access to employer-sponsored health plans or their employer doesn't cover dependents.

New consumer protections under federal health reform prevent health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing health conditions.  However, just like employer health plans, the individual plans can create open-enrollment periods. During these times, children under age 19 do not have to complete a health questionnaire and cannot be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

If you need a health plan outside of the enrollment dates, you can apply either to the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP), or if you qualify, to the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP-WA). To enroll in PCIP-WA, you must have been uninsured for at least six months and have a pre-existing medical condition.

Exceptions where you can apply for individual coverage for your kids anytime include the birth or adoption of a child or if a child or the parent:

• Is no longer eligible for a state program.

• Loses coverage due to a divorce.

• Loses employer-sponsored coverage (including COBRA).

• Moves and their plan is not available where they now live.

In 2014, when the full federal health reforms take effect, no one of any age can be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

More resources:

• What is an individual health insurance plan?

• A form to help you compare plans

• Find an individual health plan in your county (map showing which health plans are available by county)

• Low-cost options if you can't afford health insurance

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