New Jersey Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman announced new legislation on June 23 to help pregnant women get the health care coverage they need.

The Health Maternity and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act would create a 60-day enrollment window for pregnant women to enroll in or upgrade a health insurance plan provided through Healthcare.gov, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) or her employer. The bill has been endorsed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Young Invincibles, the March of Dimes, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the National Patient Advocate Foundation.

Currently, women who become pregnant can’t enroll in health care under Obamacare outside of the standard open enrollment period. Certain life events allow people to enroll in an insurance plan at any time during the year — including giving birth or adopting a child — but pregnancy is not one of them. Because of this, some pregnant women may not have access to important health care, including maternity care — or may face substantial medical costs, even if their pregnancy is without complications.

Under Obamacare, about 10.2 million people have enrolled in health coverage in the health insurance marketplaces, many of whom didn’t have insurance before. That’s amazing progress — and making sure pregnancy is treated the same as other major life events when it comes to getting care is another huge step in the right direction.

It’s time to recognize pregnancy as a life-changing event allowing for special enrollment so that pregnant women can sign up for comprehensive, affordable health care, including essential prenatal care.

Taking this step would make vital health care a reality for millions more women in need. A special enrollment period is especially important for young adults — the group that is at high risk for unintended pregnancies and also targeted for enrollment in catastrophic coverage, which often has more costly deductibles.

As Planned Parenthood sees in their health centers each day, young women especially need this vital health care. In fact, according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, women ages 20 to 24 have the highest rate among any age group of unintended pregnancies. The average hospital bill for delivery without complications is more than $23,000. A woman should not be forced to decide between forgoing maternity care and paying exorbitant medical costs.

By Roslyn Rogers Collins, CEO/President, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey

Tags: women's health, Obamacare

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