By Christina Postolowski and Sarah Lovenheim
Yesterday, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey introduced legislation nicknamed the Healthy MOM Act that would allow women to sign up for health coverage year-round. This is a major moment for women across the country.
The Congresswoman’s bill marks the culmination of a six-month campaign that we’ve led to spotlight the health and financial consequences of being pregnant without maternity coverage.
New insurance plans in the Marketplace are required to cover maternity care, but many women who have insurance plans that were grandfathered in lack this coverage. And as NPR reports, some employers refuse to cover labor and delivery charges for young adults who are covered by a parent’s employer health plan.
A young pregnant woman on her parent’s plan could have to pay more than $20,000 out of pocket, on average, at delivery without complications. And because nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, this young woman might not know that her parent’s plan wouldn’t cover the cost of her delivery until it was too late.
For women lacking health coverage who do not get regular prenatal care, the health and financial consequences could be even worse: there’s greater risk of pregnancy-related complications, threatening the woman’s health or the health of her newborn as well as her financial security.
The vast majority of new moms (83 percent) are Millennials who — six years after the Great Recession — face a tougher economic landscape than any other age group. Young moms are the least able to afford the tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses that often hit pregnant women without maternity coverage.
Fortunately, people across the country are speaking out. More than 120,000 people signed petitions that we delivered to the Department of Health and Human Services this past spring, calling for a special enrollment period for pregnancy. And 36 U.S. Senators plus 54 U.S. Representatives have also signed letters calling for policy change.
As Vauhini Vara of The New Yorker wrote in March, “[t]he argument in favor of making pregnancy a qualifying life event seems so logical, and the support for it is proving so strong, that one might wonder why it hasn’t happened already.”
Are you a young mom who faced a tough time health-wise or financially during pregnancy? If so, we’d like to hear from you to highlight how important it is to keep maternity coverage affordable for our generation, particularly for the young moms who lack health coverage.