Individual health plan enrollment for children starts March 15

Do you need individual health insurance coverage for your child or would you like to add them to your family plan? The first open enrollment of the year is March 15-April 30.

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

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

Federal health reform prevents 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 Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP-WA). To enroll in PCIP-WA, you must have a pre-existing medical condition and have been uninsured for at least six months.

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

• 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.

The next open enrollment is Sept. 15-Oct. 31

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