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 MurraySenate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Reid: House-passed Zika deal a 'disgrace' Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate 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 WydenRepublican chairman: Our tax reform plan fits with Trump's vision Post Orlando, hawks make a power play Democrats seize spotlight with sit-in on guns MORE (D-Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders shares star power with NY House hopeful Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Protecting living organ donors' rights MORE (D-N.Y.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiOvernight Energy: Senate panel approves EPA spending, rules bill Senate panel breaks with House on cuts to IRS Dems propose to boost DOJ funding by M MORE (D-Md.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back Dem hopeful that Congress will eliminate tax break for investment fund managers Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment 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.