Reform good news for pregnant women

Should women be penalized for just being, well, women? Some insurance companies think so – charging higher premiums, denying or limiting coverage for pregnancy care, or for support services for new moms.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act finally does something about this blatant sex discrimination. Starting this year, some big changes will take place:

By the fall, pregnant women will be able to get certain preventive screenings and some other services at no additional cost under all new plans. Medicaid will also cover smoking cessation & drug therapy for pregnant women.

Employers must give new moms time to express breast milk and provide a private place to do so besides the bathroom. More research on post-partum depression is also funded. $25 million/year for the next decade is set aside for a pregnancy assistance fund that covers housing, child care and other needs.

And home care gets a huge boost – a billion and a half dollars over the next 5 years – to expanding home-visiting programs that send nurses and other providers to visit pregnant teenagers and young mothers.The women will get counseling on stress management, prenatal health guidance and other support. Not only will both moms and kids get better, more regular care, but this approach has been shown to also help improve mother-child relationships and reduce rates of child abuse, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

By 2014, Medicaid will expand to cover more adults; while 40 percent of pregnant women are covered by Medicaid, most don’t have health insurance before their pregnancy or after giving birth. This mandate means more healthy women and more successful pregnancies.

But perhaps the best news is this: most health plans will be required to cover maternity and childbirth services as part of an essential health benefits package detailed by the Department of Health and Human Services. And insurers won’t be allowed to charge women who are pregnant higher rates, or refuse to cover them or their childbirth costs.

Being a woman is not a pre-existing condition. In fact, it’s a necessary condition. How else do these insurance executives think they got here?

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