Kathleen Sebelius warned the insurance industry Monday not to look for loopholes in health care legislation and informed it that she will be writing regulations to ensure that the industry covers children with preexisting conditions, which some insurers insist is not a requirement of the law.
"The American people debated and discussed health insurance reform for more than a year. Congress and the President have acted. Now is not the time to search for non-existent loopholes that preserve a broken system," writes Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary. The letter was sent to top insurance lobbyist Karen Ignagni on Monday and provided to HuffPost by a third party.
President Obama made the ban on denying children with preexisting conditions a central part of his argument in the closing weeks of the reform fight, saying that kids would be protected almost immediately after the bill passed. (The rule would activate in six months.)
But insurers argued that what the law really said was that if they choose to cover children, they must cover expenses arising from preexisting conditions. But they claim that doesn't mean they have to offer insurance at all to that child. Without a public insurance plan for children to opt in to, their only choice is the private market.
Sebelius's letter is an attempt to persuade the private industry to follow the spirit of the law. When Congress returns after the two-week recess, progressive Democrats will again be looking at ways to add a public option to the law. By threatening to refuse to insure sick children, insurers only make the case that much more persuasive.