WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the heels of Mother’s Day, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) today introduced legislation to expand healthcare options for expectant mothers. Brown, Smith and Watson Coleman’s bill, the Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act, would ensure that all women eligible for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplaces, as well as women eligible for other individual or group health plan coverage, can access affordable health coverage throughout their pregnancies. The bill would do this by establishing a special enrollment period (SEP) for expectant mothers. Right now, marriage, divorce, having a baby, adoption and changing jobs are considered qualifying life events that trigger a special enrollment period. However, becoming pregnant is not considered a qualifying event.
Research has widely shown that prenatal care leads to healthier mothers and babies, and such care comes with the burden of high out-of-pocket costs without access to the appropriate health insurance. The Healthy MOM Act will allow women to sign up for or change their coverage when they become pregnant, rather than needing to wait for the birth of their child or the annual enrollment period. The bill would also guarantee 12 months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women, thus removing key barriers that often prevent mothers from getting the care they need after birth.
“No mother-to-be should ever have to worry about how she will get the healthcare she and her baby need throughout her pregnancy and post-partum,” said Brown. “Better access to care means better outcomes for moms. This legislation will help expand coverage options for pregnant mothers so that they can access the care that best meets their needs.”
“When mothers are preparing to bring a child into the world or thinking about caring for their new baby, there shouldn’t be the added stress of not knowing whether they’re eligible for quality, affordable health care,” said Smith. “This bill would guarantee health care coverage for pregnant women and those who’ve recently given birth. It’s the year 2019—expanding comprehensive maternal care, and ensuring a high standard of care, needs to be the law of the land in our nation.”
“Events like the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce, or even moving to a new state all trigger a special window to get or change your health insurance while pregnancy, one of the most life-altering events a woman can experience, doesn’t,” said Watson Coleman. “We’re dealing with maternal mortality rates that are, in some places and among some groups, worse than developing nations. Ensuring every woman can access the care she needs during pregnancy and after giving birth is a critical part of ending this crisis. This is a simple, logical way to make sure that happens.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy-related complications. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. The Healthy MOM Act will work to improve these outcomes by expanding quality access to care, which data demonstrates could help prevent three in five pregnancy related deaths.
Specifically, the Healthy MOM Act would:
- Create a special enrollment period (SEP) in the ACA marketplaces and other commercial insurance plans for pregnant individuals once pregnancy is reported, so that they can enroll in or change their healthcare plan;
- Enable the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to establish a special enrollment period for pregnancy, for those eligible to receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and clarify that the enrollment shall be available for families even during a lapse in appropriation or government shutdown;
- Ensure comprehensive coverage of maternity care – including labor and delivery – for dependent children covered by group health plans and other forms of employer-sponsored coverage;
- Protect against threats to Medicaid income eligibility and maintain the highest standard of care for low-income pregnant individuals and infants, and
- Guarantee 12-months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women.
The Healthy MOM Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Doug Jones (D-AL).
Rep. Watson Coleman first authored the bill in 2015 and has introduced the House companion legislation. The House cosponsors include: Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Michael Doyle (D-PA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Bill Foster (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Grace Meng (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), David Trone (D-MD), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).
The Healthy MOM Act is endorsed by the American College of Nurse Midwives, March of Dimes, MomsRising, National Women's Health Network, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), National Birth Equity Collaborative, Advocates for Youth, NARAL, Young Invincibles, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Health Law Program, NOVA Birth Partners and Black Mammas Matter Alliance.
The text of Brown and Watson Coleman’s legislation can be found here.