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New York First State to Give All Pregnant Women Access to Health Care

New York First State to Give All Pregnant Women Access to Health Care

New York State has designated pregnancy as a "qualifying life event," creating a special health insurance enrollment period for pregnant women to ensure that all women have access to comprehensive prenatal care throughout pregnancy.


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 critical safety net for New York’s mothers-to-be, ensuring that 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; Senators 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 is crucial to having a healthy pregnancy and the healthiest baby possible. Prenatal care typically includes screening and treatment for medical conditions such as high blood pressure, which can lead to preeclampsia – 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 birth defects such as cleft palate.

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 State 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 Cynthia Pellegrini, March of Dimes Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs. “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.”


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