Bill to Eliminate Labor and Delivery Copay Introduced in Legislature
A bill (SB 1411) that would ban additional copayments for labor and delivery services -- charges paid in addition to the regular fee for a childbirth-related hospital stay -- was introduced in the Legislature yesterday, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. Under a 1978 federal law, all employer-sponsored health plans are prohibited from charging additional fees for maternity hospital stays. However, for women who do not have employer-sponsored coverage, some private insurance plans have begun charging extra copays of between $500 and $2,000 for labor and delivery services. The maternity copay is "clearly an issue of discrimination," bill sponsor Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) said, noting that "virtually every other medical condition with hospitalization," including high-risk procedures such as coronary bypass and brain surgery, does not have an additional copay. The bill has the support of Kaiser Permanente, which recently began charging a $500 labor and delivery copay because it "could not continue to compete" in the market without one, Associate Executive Director Dr. Sharon Levine said. The bill would "level the playing field for all insurers" and would "ensure that pregnant women who pay for their own insurance would again be treated the same as pregnant women whose employers provide their insurance," she said. Levine called the general shift toward increased copays a "bad public policy direction," noting that some insurers are requiring copays for procedures such as chemotherapy and dialysis. The California Association of Health Plans has not yet taken a position on the bill (Coleman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 2/15).