YOU ASK:

How will the new health care bill affect access to maternity benefits?

WE ANSWER:

Prior to the new health care bill, pregnancy (as well as all related maternity) benefits are excluded since this is counted as a pre-existing condition. Thus, the health insurance products in the past don't offer maternity benefits, except for employer-sponsored plans.

The new health care bill will improve these conditions by offering the following:

  • Pregnancy no longer a pre-existing condition. The good news is that with the new health care bill (which will fully kick in on the year 2014), pregnancy and other illnesses that are counted as pre-existing conditions will not be used as a basis during the insurance company's underwriting process.
  • Maternity benefits part of the new plans. The new health care exchange that will be set up as stipulated in the bill will provide maternity benefits as part of the standard health insurance plan. Also, when the new health care bill is fully implemented, all new plans, whether under group insurance or sold in the individual market, will offer a standard list of maternity benefits. That way, those who become pregnant may still enjoy health insurance coverage during and after the pregnancy.
  • Having a caesarean section no longer considered a pre-existing condition. Compared to the past insurance plans that deny coverage to those who have undergone caesarean section, the new plans under the health care reform bill will allow these individuals to be covered.
  • Access to maternity-related service providers. Another added benefit will be increased access to midwives and OB-GYNs. This is done by fixing how midwives who are paid under Medicare.
  • Benefits for lactating mothers. Nursing mothers will also get to enjoy reasonable break times and appropriate areas for them to express breast milk, up until the baby reaches the age of 1.
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