When I put out a call for submissions for a new series at The Feminist Underground on feminism and parenting, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the issues would be – maternity and paternity leave, balancing work and family, and helping kids cope with the toxic gender and racial stereotypes rampant in our society. Then my friend Maggie sent me an article that introduces an issue I’d never even considered – the difficulties many women have obtaining the type of health insurance that could make pregnancy and childbirth safe and affordable. Maggie explains how her own struggles with this issue surprised her:
I’d been careful to choose a plan that provided maternity coverage, many don’t cover it at all. But there was fine print. No maternity benefits at all for the first twelve months, regardless of when the pregnancy starts. And after the first twelve months, I could only get maternity benefits if I had a family contract, meaning I had to have some other dependent on my plan, such as a child, spouse, or domestic partner. Otherwise I would have to apply for and pay extra for a maternity rider, which would still only kick in after those 12 months.
I had to wonder, why all the hoops? Whether it’s a boyfriend or a husband, joining a health insurance policy as a domestic partner seems like a pretty big decision. Moving back and forth between insurance plans isn’t something you do lightly and it involves a lot of factors. I was in no position to add my husband to my plan. Worse, I wondered what I would do if he wasn’t my husband. What if he wasn’t around at all?
You may be thinking this isn’t legal, but it is. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act required business with 15 or more employees to have health insurance with maternity coverage. But it doesn’t cover individual plans like mine. It also may not cover a dependent spouse. And I’m not alone, approximately 9% of people in the US have these insurance plans that aren’t provided by their employers. That’s not counting the 15% of people who are uninsured. (Stats come care of the US census.) If you’re already pregnant and are looking for coverage, you’ll be denied. Pregnancy is generally considered one of those nasty “pre-existing conditions.”
You can read the rest here. I’m very interested in knowing how other women have dealt with this issue. Did you have insurance when you got pregnant? How was the pregnancy covered – were the co-pays reasonable? Were you on your own plan, or on your partner’s or parents’? In deciding whether or not to become pregnant, was health insurance an issue? What can we do to make sure that all women have access to affordable health care during pregnancy?