Not-for-Profit, For-Profit Insurers Divided Over Bill To Mandate Maternity Benefits
A bill (SB 1555) passed by the Legislature last month that would require all health insurers in the state to cover maternity care under individual plans has divided insurers into not-for-profits that support it and for-profits that oppose it, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Because of the "fractious nature of the dispute among its members," the California Association of Health Plans has taken no position on the issue, according to the Daily News.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), would expand upon a federal law that requires insurers to cover maternity care for group insurance policies. Statewide, 284,000 privately insured people do not have maternity coverage, according to the University of California's Health Benefits Review Program.
Deborah Lachman -- senior vice president of Blue Cross of California, which covers 193,000 people under plans that do not include maternity coverage -- said such coverage is unnecessary for the 2% of the state's insured population without it, including single men, same-sex couples or women who have decided not to have children, according to the Daily News. Lachman said, "Insurance companies who are mandated to add maternity plans will increase the price of their plans. ... When prices increase, people drop coverage, so this will cause people to go uninsured."
Blue Cross and Woodland Hills-based Health Net oppose SB 1555.
According to Blue Cross, premiums for its low-cost plans would increase 30% to 40% if the bill is enacted.
However, Tom Epstein, vice president of public affairs at Blue Shield of California, which supports the bill, estimates that the premium increase would be closer to 13% based on figures in a report from HBRP.
The study also found that the total insurance population would experience a premium increase of 0.01%, or about three cents per month, if the bill is enacted. The bill's supporters say that although mandating maternity benefits will increase the cost of health plans, the "fundamental nature of insurance" is that "everyone enrolled bears the costs incurred by the entire group," the Daily News reports.
Dr. Sharon Levine -- an associate executive director for Kaiser Permanente, which supports the bill -- said that women's health plans cover prostate cancer, which they will never develop, and that it is everyone's responsibility to cover maternity care costs (Hopkins, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/11).