When it comes to maternity coverage, the US ranks far below the rest of the world. The US is in last place among developed countries for maternity leave, and while certain cities have paved the way for more progressive policies on the mat leave front (looking at you, San Francisco), the future of maternity healthcare isn’t showing signs of improvement anytime soon. Trump’s nominee to run Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act has a contrasting vision for maternity care in America.
Seema Verma is making headlines after her confirmation hearing with the Senate last week in which she said she believes maternity coverage should be optional. Senator Debbie Stabenow asked Verma if she believes maternity benefits should continue to be mandated for all insurance policies sold under the Affordable Care Act. To that question, Verma responded, “Some women might want maternity coverage and some women might not want it, might not choose it, might not feel like they need that. So I think it’s up to women to make the decision that works best for them and their families.”
This response left many women’s rights advocates and organizations flabbergasted. According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost 45 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. The proposed reforms for the ACA are currently unclear about how pre-existing conditions would be handled. If you can’t tack on maternity care should you unexpectedly need it, that’s bound to leave you with a mountain of medical bills.
A report by Bustle places the average maternity bill for doctors’ fees and hospital charges around $9,700 for a standard delivery and roughly $12,500 for a cesarean section. If complications should occur, that bill can easily spike up to $300,000.
Currently under the ACA, “Maternity care and childbirth — services provided before and after your child is born — are essential health benefits. This means all qualified health plans inside and outside the Marketplace must cover them.” Additionally, you get this coverage even if you were pregnant before your coverage starts. Pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition and pre-existing conditions are currently covered under the ACA.
But let’s say Verma says you CAN tack maternity coverage onto your plan even when an unexpected pregnancy occurs; would that solve all the controversy here? Not exactly. If only women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant pay for maternity care, that puts the financial burden on women primarily ranging in age from 18 to 35. And then that poses another serious question: What about the males who helped get these women pregnant? Should they not also be responsible for some of the cost associated with this coverage?
Since last week’s confirmation hearing, Verma was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday afternoon. Her exact plan here remains unclear, but now Verma is in charge of all ACA reforms. She will also manage the health benefits of 140 million Americans and will spend over $1 trillion each year through her department.
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(Photo via Getty)