Family looks for answers after children are denied health coverage

Published: Friday, Dec. 13 2013 6:05 p.m. MST

Kent Jones and his wife, Jody, talk about how they tried to sign up for health insurance through healthcare.gov at their home in Highland. Jones and his wife were eligible for a plan, but their children were not.

Marc Weaver, Deseret News

HIGHLAND — A family's quest to sign up for health insurance has left children in limbo and parents frustrated.

Kent and Jody Jones thought enrolling through the federal healthcare.gov website would be easy. Instead, they have no coverage for their three kids, no answers, and they feel like they're at a dead end.

“If my kids aren’t covered, but we are, that doesn’t do us any good,” Kent Jones said.

Jones worked with Arches Health Plan, a nonprofit organization that offers health insurance in Utah, to find a plan he could afford. The system found one, complete with subsidies for both him and his wife. Both Kent and Jody Jones were eligible for the plan.

He picked a plan that balanced the needs of growing kids — ages 10, 7 and 4 — and for a generally healthy young family. But the applications for the kids hit a road block, even after numerous tries. The official response was: "You don't qualify for health insurance through the marketplace."

"Not only does it not make any sense to me, but it doesn't make sense to Arches Health Plan, who's been helping me during the entire process to pick a plan," Jones said. "They don't have any answers for me, don't know what to tell me."

Troubleshooting on the issue by Utah Health Policy project experts included three questions: Are the applicants legal residents? Are they enrolled in other insurance? Do they have an application pending in the marketplace already?

None of those situations apply to the Jones family's case. And no one knows why the adults can get insurance, but the kids can't.

"Why wouldn't they?" asked Jody Jones. "That's the big issue is what glitch would cause that and what are they going to do to fix it."

"The only thing we’ve heard is that there are glitches in the system, and therefore there aren’t any answers for us," Kent Jones said.

Healthcare.gov said the family's youngest child may have been eligible for the Children's Health Insurance Program. But because the parents both qualified for a plan, their children would all be ineligible for government programs such as CHIP and Medicaid.

“I’m faced with going to the private sector and paying extremely large premiums,” said Kent Jones, who describes himself as an entrepreneur. “We’re at the point right now where I cannot move forward in helping my family get health insurance and obey the laws of the land.”

The couple was hoping to have all these health insurance questions ironed out by Christmas. Now, they're not sure that will happen.

"It's making me feel helpless," Kent Jones said. "I don't have any idea who to turn to, who to go to or who to even contact.

“I’m already living a very conservative lifestyle as it is, and the government’s going to force me to live in poverty.”

Contributing: Robert Trishman

Email: rpiatt@deseretnews.com

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