Release: Senator Noreen Evans introduces legislation ensuring health insurance access for pregnant women.
SACRAMENTO – Senator Noreen Evans, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, has introduced Senate Bill 155, legislation that will ensure access to comprehensive maternity health coverage in California.
Current law requires HMO and group insurance plans to provide maternity coverage, however, health insurance plans marketed to individuals are not required to do so. As a result, the percentage of individual health plans including maternity coverage dropped alarmingly from 82% in 2004 to only 19% in 2009, increasing costs for pregnant women or those who may become pregnant, and in some areas of California eliminating coverage altogether.
“The status quo singles out women, narrows their health options, and forces them into a market scheme that makes finding comprehensive coverage more difficult and expensive,” declared Senator Evans. “These women are responsible actors, seeking to purchase health insurance out of their own pocket. Forcing these women to pay higher costs, and often nudging them out of the market altogether, simply because they are women who may become pregnant is fundamentally wrong.”
This is not the first time the California Legislature has attempted to remedy this problem. The legislature approved AB 1825, a widely-supported bill that would have addressed this growing disparity, but it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
SB 155, is supported by the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG), an organization that intimately understands the crucial need for prenatal care for women. Dr. Philip Diamond, Vice Chair of ACOG-California, spoke to the importance of the bill, “As obstetricians, we believe prenatal care is basic, essential preventive care which should be covered. Prenatal care, especially early entry into care, improves pregnancy outcomes for mother and baby and saves money. When women have policies without maternity coverage, care can be delayed while women search for other coverage, often turning to state programs.”
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is also supporting the measure: “For those buying their own health insurance coverage, maternity care continues to be difficult to obtain. Women are encouraged to seek medical care early and regularly during a pregnancy, but without insurance coverage some women won’t have access to essential pre-natal care. Insurers should not be able to refuse to sell coverage for women’s critical health care needs."
SB 155 will be subject to review in policy and fiscal committees in both the State Assembly and State Senate. Should both houses adopt the legislation it will be sent to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.
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 also Chair of both the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Legislative Women’s Caucus.