Dems call for open enrollment for pregnant women

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Democrats are asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve women’s access to heath care by instituting a special open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act for women when they find out they are pregnant.

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On Tuesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayOur children, our future – bridging the partisan divide Overnight Energy: Officials close in on new global emissions deal NBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law MORE (D-Wash.) sent a letter with 36 signatures to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging her to address a gap in coverage that could leave women without access to maternity care.

“Good maternity care is essential for the well-being of children, and studies show that maternal mortality rates are three to four times higher for women who do not receive prenatal care,” said the letter, signed by Sens. Ron WydenRon WydenDems push for US, EU cooperation on China's market status Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Watchdog faults Energy Department over whistleblower retaliation MORE (D-Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic National Convention event calendar Texas rep uses Snapchat to prompt border control discussions GOP probes EPA response to NY state water contamination MORE (D-N.Y.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiEmphasis on diversity in Democratic convention lineup Senate confirms first black female librarian of Congress Clinton pens tribute to feminist website The Toast MORE (D-Md.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinNBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law Mike Pence out-of-touch with New Midwest Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency MORE (D-Wis.). “Millions of women have benefitted from this protection, and we appreciate your leadership in getting this done.”

Without health insurance, lawmakers said, women will either be forced to forgo this critical care of face lofty out-of-pocket costs.

In a statement to NPR last month, Burwell said HHS has not included pregnancy as a qualifying life event because it was following insurance companies in determining open enrollment periods.

But, she said, HHS is open to considering the issue.

In a statement, Christina Postolowski, health policy manager of Young Invincibles, said she’s thrilled to see a growing chorus of leaders calling on the administration to create a special open enrollment period to make maternity coverage available to pregnant women year-round.  

According to Postolowski’s December 2014 report “Without Maternity Coverage” maternity care and delivery ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 without complications.

“Prenatal visits are crucial for detecting rare but severe diseases that can be caused by or diagnosed during pregnancy – including preeclampsia, placental abruption, diabetes, heart conditions, and Graves’ disease. If untreated, these diseases can lead to severe morbidity or death of the mother and/or fetus,” the report said.