Today, major health insurance companies (including those insuring Missourians) announced that they would be ending their coverage of children because health insurance reform will no longer allow them to turn away sick kids.

This announcement comes just one day before major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are set to kick in, providing patients’ protection from the very worst insurance company practices.

The changes, which go into effect Thursday, will put an end to horrible practices like denying children under the age of 19 coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. In addition, the new law will allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26. Further, the law eliminates lifetime limits on the amount of coverage you can get from an insurance policy and denies insurance companies from dropping you from your policy just because you get sick.

Once the law is fully implemented, insurance companies will not be able to deny any of us coverage because we have an illness, or drop us when we do, or force us into bankruptcy because of caps on how much of our health care they’ll pay for.

The announcement that health insurers will no longer be offering coverage to children is noteworthy considering insurance companies are doing exactly what they said they would’t do. In a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Karen Ignagni, President and Chief Executive Officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans, wrote that “Health plans recognize the significant hardship that a family faces when they are unable to obtain coverage for a child with a pre-existing condition.” She went on to ensure that they would fully comply with all new regulations, saying “With respect to the provisions related to coverage for children, we await and will fully comply with the regulations described in your letter.”

This latest move by insurance companies to deny coverage to children is morally reprehensible. Health insurance providers should honor their commitment and follow the spirit and letter of the law, rather than exploiting loopholes.

This behavior by insurance providers points to the importance of the new law and shows why Republican efforts for repeal are horribly misguided. For too long insurance companies have been able to take advantage of those most in need. With these new consumer protections, we can finally get the health care we paid for and need.