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Healthcare Reform: Maternity Benefits a Luxury or Basic Human Right?

Maternity and healthcare reform

Maternity a basic human right?

A friend of mine — who is thinking of starting a family — recently went shopping for individual health plans that cover maternity and found that the best plan out there (the only plan, actually) had a $5,000 deductible and a $7,000 out of pocket maximum — per person. That’s on top of monthly premiums, of course, which are steep when maternity benefits are included.

Here in California, health insurers aren’t required to cover maternity, and tens of thousands of moms don’t have benefits, reports the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, the average cost of a delivery in the state is $13,000 (that’s the Times figure, which seems low to me, actually).

Maternity benefits are somewhat of a luxury when you’re buying individual insurance — most plans don’t have them and the ones that do are up to five times as expensive as non-maternity plans.

Lots of moms go without coverage, and the situation isn’t getting any better for a few years — here’s why:

Lawmakers (and even some insurance companies, like Kaiser and Blue Shield) have been proposing to make maternity coverage mandatory in all policies.  It would spread the “risk” across all plans and cut down on the number of moms who have to forgo coverage because it’s too expensive — these moms end up without prenatal care, which ups the chances of complications and more expensive procedures down the line. Moms without maternity coverage often can’t afford to pay their hospital bills in the end.

But some insurance companies are lobbying against it, and Schwarzenegger doesn’t support making maternity a basic health benefit for all women.

In 2014, under the new health care bill, all policies will have maternity, but in the meantime many women are falling through the cracks, or paying a huge amount to make up the difference. I fall into the second category, and the thought of having a second baby and paying the whopping $7,500 out of pocket maximum on my individual plan is not appealing to say the least.

What do you think – is maternity coverage a basic right that all women should have access to?  Or do you think the current system is working?

Image: flickr/theodens

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