While all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s sweeping healthcare coverage, won’t be fully implemented until 2014, many future moms are already looking forward to the changes the health care law will bring to maternity coverage.
In fact, in most news reports, women are called the big winners of Obamacare thanks to all the preventative services that will now be covered under the new plan, such as annual well-woman visits, mammograms, lactation support, counseling and testing. But what does Obamacare mean for maternity coverage?
Obamacare and Maternity Coverage
It is estimated that 8.7 million women will be able to obtain maternity coverage and newborn care under the new law. Already, women have seen the complete disappearance of co-pays on most methods of birth control—considered a welcome financial respite by most women and a certain, government intrusion by religiously-affiliated groups.
In 2014, Obamacare will require all new health plans to cover maternity care. Just recently, only 12 percent of plans in the individual health insurance markets offered maternity coverage. And more shockingly, 90% of these plans also charged women a premium simply for being women, according to research conducted by the National Women’s Law Center. This premium in gender disparity, up to 30% more in some cases, was estimated to cost women approximately $1 billion a year. No chump change.
And lest you think this was due to maternity coverage, only 3% of these plans included maternity services.
The new law is expected to cover all services regarding maternity coverage and newborn care, along with vision and dental care for children. Most importantly, when the law goes into effect in 2014, health plans will no longer be able to deny coverage for a pre-existing conditions, and that includes pregnancy.
And post-birth coverage includes mandating companies with more than 50 employees to provide a private room—not a bathroom stall or a car—for mothers to breastfeed. Will this encourage employers to look at hiring less women of child bearing age, maybe so?
Maternity Coverage: At what cost?
The new health coverage seems wonderful. All maternity services covered? Having to worry about how you’re going to afford to raise a child is enough without adding in how you’re going to be able to afford to pay for maternity services. Why would anyone feel that women don’t deserve the right to affordable maternity coverage? It’s not like women get pregnant by themselves.
But is the Affordable Care Act too good to be true? We already know that it is expected to help more than 50 million uninsured Americans by offering affordable health coverage, but the question remains: At what cost?
Or is there even a tangible cost that can be associated with helping out our fellow Americans and insuring their well-being?
The answer remains to be seen.