National Patient Advocate Foundation Applauds Senators Lautenberg and Brown for Protecting Health Care Coverage for At-Risk Children
WASHINGTON, June 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) -- a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of creating avenues of improved patient access to health care through public policy reform at the state and federal levels -- today praised Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for introducing the Children's Health Protection Act of 2008 (S. 3115). The Lautenberg-Brown legislation takes an important and very necessary step in protecting children unable to attain private health insurance coverage as a result of pre-existing medical conditions. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) in 2007.
Approximately 20 percent of school-aged children suffer from a chronic illness according to the Child Study Center at New York University's School of Medicine; this legislation would be a significant achievement and help protect this vulnerable population. In addition, the Children's Health Protection Act would allow some of the almost nine million American children who are uninsured to obtain necessary care for the treatment of their chronic conditions.
"Children in America with chronic, disabling and life-threatening conditions often fall through the cracks because our current law prevents them from gaining health insurance coverage that delivers access to the medical care they so desperately need," said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, President and CEO of NPAF. "Eliminating these gaps and ensuring that medically at-risk children have access to care is a principal goal of NPAF's ongoing mission to improve patient access to care. NPAF is grateful for the support of Senators Lautenberg, Brown and Representative Schwartz on this critical issue."
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), important safeguards are provided to certain individuals and families when they move from one group health policy to another. While families have come to rely on these protections, significant gaps remain that can make finding coverage for a chronically ill child in the individual health insurance market a serious challenge. For example, families who allow their health insurance to lapse for more than 63 days put their children with pre-existing conditions at risk of becoming uninsurable. Children transitioning from Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to private insurance may also find that their pre-existing conditions are not covered because the public program was not considered "creditable" group coverage.
While HIPAA provides exceptions to pre-existing condition exclusions for several specific groups of children (including pregnant women, newborn infants and adopted children), the Children's Health Protection Act would expand upon HIPAA's protections and eliminate pre-existing coverage limitations for all chronically ill children. If enacted, the legislation would prohibit insurers from refusing to provide coverage to a child with a pre-existing condition.
"A child's health should never be threatened due to a parent's error in judgment when selecting medical care -- such as their lack in understanding of HIPAA's no-63-day-break-in-coverage rule -- or an employer's decision to drop a family's coverage," added Davenport-Ennis. "Senators Lautenberg, Brown and Representative Schwartz have taken an important step in protecting chronically ill children at risk of having no health insurance by introducing this legislation. NPAF is proud to work with these leaders in any way that we can to help ensure that this vital legislation is enacted."
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