David Guttenberg Prime Sponsor HB 326 Passes Legislature
In an unusual maneuver, the Alaska State Legislature enacted the essence of Representative David Guttenberg's (D- Fairbanks) House Bill 326 to substantially increase access to "child-only" health insurance. Existing law prevents parents with pre-existing conditions from acquiring health insurance solely for their children. HB 326 would have remedied that by allowing parents to purchase insurance for their dependent children.
In passing the House Health and Social Services Committee's House Bill 218, a measure addressing prescription drug specialty tiers, lawmakers included a last-minute language change creating a reinsurance program. The program spreads high risk across a larger pool of insureds, making it possible for child-only insurance plans to again be sold in the state of Alaska. Since 2010, federal health care law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. However, if child-only insurance plans are not offered at all, denying coverage to certain children is not an issue. Consequently, child-only plans vanished from the individual market, leaving a gap in available coverage.
"This last minute maneuver shows the importance of making sure everyone has the opportunity to purchase insurance coverage, especially Alaska's children," Guttenberg said. "I'm pleased we can all recognize the need to close this gap."
The amended HB 218 now allows the Director of the Division of Insurance in the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development to put a reinsurance program in place. Such a program would allow the state to guarantee coverage to these more costly insureds by pooling them together and spreading higher costs across a larger pool of Alaskans. These Alaskans will likely join the Alaska Comprehensive Health Insurance Association (ACHIA), which covers Alaskans with pre-existing or other higher risk conditions, keeps costs low, and increases access to coverage.
This new amendment was a very acceptable solution to the problem and I am pleased we could all come together to do something that will help Alaskan families.