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Pre- and Post-Natal Care Covered in Healthcare Reform

How about some good news for American moms for a change?

The Washington Post reports that within the next year or two, several positive changes will be made to give pregnant women and new mothers the health coverage they need.

“Starting in the fall, all new health plans must cover certain preventive screenings” and will provide folic acid supplements at no additional cost to the patient.  Employers will be required to provide breastfeeding mothers time off to express breast milk, “as well as a place to do so that’s not a bathroom.”  Hooray for the boobie lounge!  (How often do you think male employees will “accidentally” open the door, thinking it’s the “copy room?”)

Perhaps most importantly, the new healthcare laws authorize funding for research and treatment of postpartum depression.  I can’t tell you how many stories I come across while doing research for SD about babies and toddlers being hurt or, yes, killed in cases where authorities believe the mother had undiagnosed/untreated postpartum depression.  I’m so thankful I didn’t experience PPD and my heart goes out to every mother who has.  It’s about time the medical community examine this devistating condition more thoroughly.

According to the Post, the largest amount of money being devoted to maternal health – $1.5 billion over five years – “will be dedicated to expanding home-visiting programs in which nurses and other providers visit pregnant teenagers and young mothers.”

The City of New York already runs a similar “community initiative,” called the Newborn Home Visit Program.  When my daughter was born, we lived in East Harlem, a Manhattan neighborhood with one of the highest rates of asthma in all five boros.  It’s also one of the communities targeted by the Newborn Home Visit Program, because of its “social, health and environmental needs.”  I’ll never forget learning about the program through my friend and fellow East Harlem resident, Raven Snook, who blogged about her encounter with The Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health.  She wrote:

Why is this program only for first-time mothers living in Harlem, East Harlem and Bed Stuy?  And why did the woman on the phone get so defensive when I asked why this program didn’t contact parents living in Chelsea or on the Upper East Side?  And why, when I explained that I was a 34-year-old woman living with her child’s father in a middle class household with childcare assistance (my mother), did the woman start ranting about all the “lawyers and nurses and doctors” she had visited and that the program was “for everyone”?  Now is that really true, or could it be that this program, for all its supposed good intentions, is invariably racist and classist, considering the neighborhoods it focuses on?  Wouldn’t the program work better if it concentrated on prenatal care, or hell, *birth control*, rather than wait until a baby arrives on this earth in what is clearly considered an “at-risk area”?  Hey lady, when you start going into homes in Tribeca or handing out condoms, give me a call back.

The Post says, “Studies of this model have shown that it results in better health for both mother and child, more stable relationships and lower rates of child abuse and delinquency.”  That’s wonderful, but all mothers deserve this type of training and feedback, not just poor (read: unqualified) ones.

Finally, by 2014, Medicaid will be required “to cover adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.”  That’s good news for people like my friend Jenny, who, while she was pregnant was uninsured and unable to qualify for Medicaid.  Additionally, “many health plans will be required to cover maternity and childbirth services as part of an “essential health benefits” package detailed by the federal government. And insurers won’t be allowed to charge women who are pregnant higher rates, or refuse to cover them or their childbirth costs.”  As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

Photo: benklocek via Flickr

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