May 20, 2019

Senator Hassan, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Ensure Pregnant Mothers Can Access Affordable Health Care During and After Pregnancy

Bill Would Create a Special Enrollment Period for Pregnancy; Guarantee 12 Months of Continuous Medicaid Eligibility for Postpartum Women

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan joined her colleagues last week to introduce legislation to expand health care options for expectant mothers. The Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act, would ensure that all women eligible for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplaces, as well as women eligible for other individual or group health plan coverage, can access affordable health coverage throughout their pregnancies. The bill would establish a special enrollment period (SEP) for expectant mothers. Right now, marriage, divorce, giving birth, adoption, and changing jobs are considered qualifying life events that trigger a special enrollment period. However, becoming pregnant is not considered a qualifying event. 

Research has widely shown that prenatal care leads to healthier mothers and babies, and such care comes with the burden of high out-of-pocket costs without access to the appropriate health insurance. The Healthy MOM Act will allow women to sign up for or change their coverage when they become pregnant, rather than waiting for the birth of their child or the annual enrollment period. The bill would also guarantee 12 months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women, thus removing key barriers that often prevent mothers from getting the care they need after birth.

"A mother’s body goes through incredible changes during and after pregnancy, so it is imperative that expectant mothers have the medical care that they need to ensure both their health and the baby’s,” Senator Hassan said. “Our bill would allow pregnant women to sign up for or change their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as soon as they realize that they are pregnant, which will allow them to receive the prenatal and postnatal care that is so vital to a healthy pregnancy.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy-related complications. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. The Healthy MOM Act will work to improve these outcomes by expanding quality access to care, which data demonstrates could help prevent three in five pregnancy related deaths.

Specifically, the Healthy MOM Act would:

  • Create a special enrollment period (SEP) in the ACA marketplaces and other commercial insurance plans for pregnant individuals once pregnancy is reported, so that they can enroll in or change their healthcare plan;
  • Enable the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to establish a special enrollment period for pregnancy, for those eligible to receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and clarify that the enrollment shall be available for families even during a lapse in appropriation or government shutdown;
  • Ensure comprehensive coverage of maternity care – including labor and delivery – for dependent children covered by group health plans and other forms of employer-sponsored coverage;
  • Protect against threats to Medicaid income eligibility and maintain the highest standard of care for low-income pregnant individuals and infants, and
  • Guarantee 12-months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women.

  

The bill is led by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). 

The text of the legislation can be found here.

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