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New York Legislators Pass Pregnancy-Friendly Health Insurance Law

Nina Liss-Schultz

A bill allowing pregnant women to enroll in health insurance through the New York state exchange passed both houses of the state legislature last week and is now headed to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

A bill allowing pregnant women to enroll in health insurance through the New York state exchange passed both houses of the state legislature last week and is now headed to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The bill, A06780 in the assembly and S05972 in the senate, will make pregnancy a “qualifying life event,” meaning that uninsured people who become pregnant can enroll in private or employer-sponsored health insurance outside of the designated open enrollment periods.

Currently, if you become pregnant, want to carry the pregnancy to term but are uninsured, you’re out of luck where coverage is concerned until the baby is born. That’s because becoming pregnant is not a qualifying life event under Obamacare, though “changes in family size,” such as divorce, marriage, or having a baby, are included.

New York will become the first state to make pregnancy a qualifying life event for health insurance.

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“Lack of prenatal care place both women and their babies at an increased risk of complications and death,” according to a statement from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II. “Maternal mortality is three to four times higher among women who do not receive prenatal care.”

But prenatal care is expensive, costing an average of more than $20,000 in New York, reports New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, putting consistent care out of reach for many people without health insurance.

New York has the country’s second-highest unintended pregnancy rate, tied with Hawaii at 61 percent. Because those pregnancies are unintended, many women may not plan for them by purchasing insurance.

“Pregnancies are quite often unplanned, making limited enrollment periods impractical for many women,” said NARAL Pro-Choice New York president Andrea Miller.

California lawmakers are considering a similar bill, AB 1102, which was passed by the assembly this month. Currently in both states, uninsured low-income women who become pregnant and meet the qualifications for Medicaid can immediately sign up for temporary public insurance through an expedited process called “presumptive eligibility.”

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