Bill would mandate maternity coverage

February 2, 2011

By Daniel Weintraub

The chairwoman of the Legislative Women’s Caucus has introduced a bill that would require health insurance plans marketed to individuals to include comprehensive maternity coverage.

Current law already requires Health Maintenance Organizations and group insurance plans to cover maternity services. But individual plans are exempt from that rule. The percentage of such plans offering maternity coverage has dropped from 82 percent in 2004 to 19 percent in 2009, according to Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, the author of the bill.

“The status quo singles out women, narrows their health options, and forces them into a market scheme that makes finding comprehensive coverage more difficult and expensive,” Evans said in a statement released by her office. “These women are responsible actors, seeking to purchase health insurance out of their own pocket. Forcing these women to pay higher costs, and often nudging them out of the market altogether, simply because they are women who may become pregnant is fundamentally wrong.”

SB 155 is supported by the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. The group says prenatal care is essential, improving outcomes for mothers and babies, and, ultimately, saving money.

The insurance industry has opposed similar legislation in the past, contenting that mandates requiring coverage for specific services limit consumer choice and drive up the cost of policies for everyone.

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