New York is the first state in the country to pass legislation designating pregnancy as a "qualifying life event," creating a special enrollment period for pregnant women to purchase health insurance from New York State of Health. This legislation creates a safety net for New York's mothers-to-be, ensuring all women have the opportunity to access comprehensive prenatal care services.
"Establishing a special enrollment period for pregnant women is a real victory for maternal and child health," said Dr. Iffath Abbasi Hoskins, a volunteer member of the March of Dimes New York Chapter's advocacy and government affairs committee. "Without this new law, women who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid could find themselves without coverage options unless they discovered they were pregnant within the short open enrollment period. The March of Dimes commends Assembly members Kevin A. Cahill and Aravella Simotas, Sens. Kemp Hannon, Liz Krueger and James Seward, and New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer for championing this important legislation, which will help pregnant women obtain health coverage when they need it most."
Under current law, women whose income is above Medicaid eligibility levels are able to enroll in coverage through the state's marketplace, New York State of Health, during the annual open enrollment period. If a woman discovers she is pregnant outside the open enrollment period, however, she may be unable to obtain affordable coverage for most or all of her pregnancy. This new law will address this loophole by designating pregnancy as a "qualifying life event," which will trigger a special enrollment period for women to enroll in coverage.
Prenatal care typically includes screening and treatment for medical conditions such as high blood pressure, which can lead to pre-eclampsia - one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in the United States - and can cause premature birth or infant loss. Prenatal care also includes identification of and interventions for behavioral risk factors associated with poor birth outcomes, such as smoking during pregnancy, which can result in the baby developing cleft palate, a birth defect in which the oral palate is malformed.
March of Dimes said encouraging healthy pregnancies will not only lead to better birth outcomes, but will also generate health care savings. The average medical cost for a premature baby is in excess of $55,000, while the average medical cost for a healthy baby is less than $5,000. New York could realize an annual savings of more than $1 billion by preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.
"New York state is providing a model for the nation in establishing a special enrollment period for pregnancy," said March of Dimes Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs Cynthia Pellegrini. "The March of Dimes urges every state to follow New York's lead in ensuring that all pregnant women have access to affordable, quality health insurance."
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefitted from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs.