Connecticut Lawmakers Advocate For Bill To Enhance Access to Prenatal Care

February 27, 2018

Senate Bill 206 Would Allow Pregnant Women to Enroll in Health Insurance Before the Birth of their Child 

HARTFORD, Conn. –  Connecticut lawmakers are working to improve access to prenatal health care by allowing uninsured pregnant women to enroll in health insurance.

Senate Bill 206 would make pregnancy a qualifying life event so that expectant mothers could enroll in health insurance outside of the yearly open enrollment period, instead of being required to wait until their child is born to access insurance. Under the bill, a special enrollment period would be offered to all eligible pregnant individuals within thirty days of a licensed health care provider confirms a pregnancy diagnosis.

“According to the CDC, women who don’t receive prenatal care are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than women who do. This legislation aims to help expectant mothers access and afford lifesaving prenatal care by allowing women to enroll in health insurance once they discover that they are pregnant,” said Senator Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford), Co-Chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee. “Pregnant women who do not have health insurance face enormous barriers to care. The financial burden alone can be crushing and prevent women from gaining access to the care they need to keep themselves and their baby healthy. Without this essential prenatal care, pregnant women and their babies may face costly future complications and can even put their lives at risk. Working together we can increase access to prenatal care and keep more mothers and babies healthy during pregnancy, which translates to better health throughout their lives.”

Under federal law, the decision to make pregnancy a qualifying life event is one that lies with individual states. While states that participate in the federal health exchange under the Affordable Care Act cannot implement this change to address the gap in coverage, states that operate their own exchanges, like Connecticut, have the flexibility to add pregnancy to its list of qualifying events. New York was the first state to allow pregnant women to purchase insurance under legislation that was passed in 2015.

“Health care coverage during pregnancy is important because basic treatment and preventative care serve as a boundary between healthy motherhood and a woman’s maternal mortality or serious morbidity. Most of the complications developed during pregnancy are preventable and treatable. Moreover, if women have pre-existing complications, those are worsened during pregnancy if not properly managed. The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world where maternal mortality rates have risen despite improvements in health care. The fact is Black women in the U.S. are three and-a-half times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts. The healthy birth of babies relies heavily on the care that their mothers receive. Making pregnancy a qualifying life event for a Special Enrollment Period is an important policy to improve women’s health care access,” saidGretchen Raffa, Director of Public Policy, Advocacy and Strategic Engagement, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

“By designating pregnancy as a qualifying life event, women would be empowered to enroll in coverage as soon as they become pregnant. The March of Dimes strongly supports ensuring that all women have access to coverage and care during pregnancy to ensure the health of both mother and child,” saidErin Jones, Regional Director Advocacy and Government Affairs – Northeast Region for March of Dimes.

According to the March of Dimes, premature births and low birthweight babies cost on average 12 times more in health care costs.  The average medical cost for a premature baby is over $55,000, while the average medical cost for a healthy baby is under $5,000. Ensuring that both mom and baby are healthy during pregnancy can not only save lives, but by preventing future complications can prevent added future expenses.

“Children and their families will be the main drivers for the future economic vibrancy of the state of CT. For this reason we should meet newly expectant mothers where they are to ensure that they have access to the care and support they need to help their children thrive and grow,” said Steven Hernandez, Executive Director for the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors.

“No person should be forced to forgo critical prenatal care because the timing of her pregnancy does not align with open enrollment for health insurance. If Connecticut truly cares about family values, we will advance this common-sense policy to save the lives of newborn babies and their mothers, by identifying and preventing complications before and during birth,” said Catherine Bailey, Deputy Director, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.

The bill is set for a public hearing in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee today and received widespread, bipartisan support in the 2017 Legislative Session.