Senator Noreen Evans introduces bill requiring health coverage during pregnancy leave

Feb 20, 2011
Christopher Moore - (916) 651-4002

SACRAMENTO, CA —Senator Noreen Evans has introduced Senate Bill 299, legislation that closes the gap in health insurance coverage for working women on pregnancy leave. Current law guarantees a woman up to four months of unpaid pregnancy-related disability leave when deemed medically necessary by her physician. The law concerning health coverage during this leave, however, is murky and contains significant gaps. These gaps often result in new mothers losing coverage or risking their health by returning to work prematurely to prevent losing coverage.

“The time period leading up to and immediately following the birth of a child is absolutely critical for the health needs of both mother and baby. Further, it often represents one of the most transformative and stressful periods in a woman’s life. Suddenly ending health coverage during this time is unconscionable,” said Senator Evans.

Pregnancy-related disability leave is treated differently than most other types of disability leave in California. The continuation of employer-funded healthcare is typically mandated for disability leave, however, pregnancy-related disability leave has been singled out and largely excluded from this guarantee of continued coverage. There are various laws providing piecemeal coverage for women on pregnancy-related disability leave, but ultimately more than half of California’s women are excluded from a legal guarantee of continued coverage while on leave. This inequitable coverage creates a disincentive for new mothers to take adequate leave to receive critical care and bonding time, effectively penalizing a new mother and her child.

Noreen Farrell, Managing Attorney of Equal Rights Advocates, an organization supporting the bill offered her praise:  “Senate Bill 299 is crucial for many pregnant working women who face a horrible choice of either taking a medically necessary pregnancy leave or continuing health care benefits during their pregnancy.  Senate Bill 299 ensures health care coverage when pregnant workers need it most.”

Pregnant women have a stronger connection to the workforce than ever before. Three quarters of women entering today’s workforce will become pregnant at least once while employed. Those who become pregnant while working increasingly stay in the workforce. Meaningful access to leave – including the maintenance of health insurance coverage – is essential to protecting the health and economic security of working women and their families.

“Senate Bill 299 is another opportunity to remove an unjust hurdle for women wishing or needing to pursue a career and simultaneously raise a family. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature on this important reform,” concluded Senator Evans. 

State Senator Noreen Evans represents the Second Senatorial District, including all or portions of the Counties of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma. Senator Evans is Chair of both the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Legislative Women’s Caucus.