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.

On Tuesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military A fight for new rights 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 WydenSenators urge resolution of US, Canada softwood lumber deal What the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress Wyden seeks IRS info on firms linked to Panama Papers MORE (D-Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMusic streamer Spotify joins Gillibrand’s push for paid family leave Gillibrand proposes sexual assault reforms for Merchant Marine Academy Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs MORE (D-N.Y.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiBetter child care for stronger families GOP Senate candidate: It's 'not practical' to repeal ObamaCare Senate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal MORE (D-Md.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Why Congress needs an openly atheist member, now Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs 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.