Senate Bill Would Ban Health Insurance Plans That Exclude Maternity Benefits
Under a bill (SB 1555) expected to reach the Senate floor this month, California could become the first state in the nation to ban health insurance plans that exclude maternity benefits, the Sacramento Bee reports. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) and approved by the Senate Insurance Committee, comes in response to individual policies introduced last year by Blue Cross of California and Health Net that offer cheaper, "bare-bones" health coverage without maternity benefits, according to the Bee. Current state law requires health insurance coverage offered through employers to include maternity benefits, but no such requirement exists for individual health insurance policies. Under Health Net's individual policies without maternity coverage, women are allowed to change their coverage to a policy that includes maternity benefits if they become pregnant. Members of Blue Cross' RightPlan 40, which does not include maternity benefits, are not allowed to change policies, but potential policyholders are informed "up front" that the policy does not cover maternity costs, the Bee reports. Other supporters of the bill include Kaiser Permanente, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and some reproductive health advocates.
Reproductive health advocates said health insurance policies that exclude maaternity benefits discriminate against women. Allowing health insurers to draft such policies "puts young women of child-bearing age in the impossible position of purchasing insurance that doesn't cover pregnancy -- the medical benefit young women are most likely to need," Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said. She added that women with health insurance policies excluding maternity benefits would be "more likely to delay prenatal care, have complications during pregnancy and have babies with medical problems." Health Net spokesperson Brad Kieffer said the bill would cause health insurance premiums for women who currently have plans that do not include maternity benefits to increase by an average of 12% (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 5/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.