Sebelius Seeks to Quell Debate on Health Coverage for Children

BY Jenny Marder  March 29, 2010 at 5:50 PM EDT

Providing coverage to children with pre-existing conditions is a cornerstone of the new health law, and central to President Obama’s argument for reform. But on Sunday, The New York Times reported that insurance companies may have found loopholes to sidestep parts of the provision.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, says that the “fine print” is different than the larger political message. He explains it this way, in the article: “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.”

Monday evening, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a reply, in the form of a letter to insurance lobbyist Karen Ignani, of America’s Health Insurance Plans. In the letter, Sebelius pledged to reinforce the law with new regulations that would ensure that any child with a pre-existing condition has access to a health insurance plan and to necessary treatments.

“The American people debated and discussed health insurance reform for more than a year,” the letter reads. “Congress and the president have acted. Now is not the time to search for nonexisting loopholes that preserve a broken system.”

You can read the full letter here.

According to most accounts, it remains unclear if the sternly worded letter would fully settle the dispute. Late Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that insurers had signaled that they would accept the new regulations on children’s coverage.