Thursday, October 15, 2009

Maternity and Health Insurance Disparities

Is the fact that women experience discrimination in regards to health insurance coverage even debatable at this point? It is critical that health reform discussions address the health issues that disproportionately affect women in this country. Whether we're discussing a public option or more equitable private coverage, women's health must be front and center. The Service Employees International Union has done extensive research, promoted actions and continues to raise awareness around these issues so special gratitude is due to SEIU for the facts and figures below.

Did you know?

  • Only 14 states require insurance companies to cover maternity care.
  • Only 12% of individual insurance plans include comprehensive maternity coverage.
  • Insurance companies can consider prior cesarean sections as a "pre-existing condition" and deny a woman coverage for childbirth. Additionally, in Florida for example, women who have had C-sections are charged 25% more in premiums if they want to retain their health insurance coverage of birth.
  • In Illinois, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article on 6/26/07, a woman's emergency C-section (much to her physician's consternation) was denied coverage by BlueCross BlueShield.
  • For that matter, pregnancy itself is often considered a "pre-existing condition" by insurance company, therefore it's a reason to deny coverage. According to a 2008 study conducted by the National Women's Law Center, "The vast majority of individuals market health policies that NWLC found do not cover maternity care at all. Even if a woman is not currently pregnant, it is unlikely that an insurer will provide or even offer maternity benefits as part of her regular insurance policy."
  • Victim of domestic violence? As the SEIU flyer says, in eight states and Washington DC it is legal for insurance companies to deny health coverage to victims of domestic violence. In fact, when the vote to ensure coverage for individuals in this situation came to the floor of the Senate in 2006 (through a proposed bill by Washington state Senator Patty Murray), ten Republicans voted against it, killing the bill.
  • In 2007, Senate Republicans voted to override regulations requiring insurance companies to cover mammograms in more than 20 states. The year prior, ten Republicans voted against requiring insurance companies to cover mammograms.

For the above reasons and so many more, advocates, bloggers and activists have come together to create an awareness campaign, "I Am Not A Pre-Existing Condition" and demanded stronger reform on these issues.

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