March 12, 2015

Watson Coleman Leads 54 Members Urging HHS to Establish Special Health Enrollment Period for Pregnant Women


Washington, DC (March 12, 2015) ― Today, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) led 54 Members of Congress on a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell urging HHS to establish pregnancy as a “qualifying life event,” triggering a 60-day special open enrollment period in the federal exchange for women who have become pregnant.

“If a woman becomes pregnant while uninsured at a time outside of the annual Open Enrollment period, or is enrolled in a grandfathered plan that does not cover maternity services, she will not able to access coverage for maternity care,” the letter reads.  “These women are forced to either forgo critical prenatal care or face significant out of pocket costs. Special enrollment periods currently exist for qualifying life events like the birth of a child or the adoption of a child. We believe pregnancy should trigger a similar special enrollment period.”

A recent report from Young Invincibles suggests that basic prenatal care and delivery average nearly $20,000 out-of-pocket, and that pregnancy related maternal mortality is three to four times higher among women who receive no prenatal care, when compared with women who do.  Young Invincibles, Daily Kos and RH Reality Check also led a 50,000-person petition and a separate letter to Secretary Burwell signed by 32 advocacy groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro Choice America and March of Dimes.

“The number of health advocates, Members of Congress, and average Americans calling for this change highlights the importance of this issue and should inspire special urgency for the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Rep. Watson Coleman.  “Making sure pregnant women can get the care they need will improve health outcomes for millions of mothers and their babies , and I hope HHS will take steps to implement this change as quickly as possible.”

“The Department of Health & Human Services has demonstrated a willingness to break from insurance industry practices that did not advance public health," said Christina Postolowski, Health Policy Manager at Young Invincibles.  "We hope that they will hear the pleas of a growing chorus calling on them to exercise the same leadership."

To see the full text of the letter, click here.