Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in introducing legislation to expand healthcare options for expectant mothers. The Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act, would establish a special enrollment period (SEP) for expectant mothers so they can enroll in or change their health care plan once they become pregnant. Currently, life events including marriage, divorce, having a baby, adoption and changing jobs trigger a special enrollment period. Yet, becoming pregnant is not considered a qualifying event. In addition, this legislation would guarantee 12-months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women and require employer-sponsored plans to cover maternity care for all beneficiaries including dependent children.

“It’s common sense that women who become pregnant should be able to enroll in a health care plan or change plans to reflect their new needs. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world and we need to be doing everything we can to ensure that mothers and their babies have access to the care they need, both before and after birth. Expectant parents have plenty to think about without the added worry of high out-of-pocket costs for basic prenatal and postpartum care. I’m proud to cosponsor legislation that will help expand healthcare options for mothers.”

In addition to Senators Cortez Masto, Brown and Smith, this legislation is cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.). Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

BACKGROUND:

Research has shown that prenatal care leads to healthier mothers and babies, yet such care comes with the burden of high out-of-pocket costs without access to the appropriate health insurance. The Healthy MOM Act will allow women to sign up for or change their coverage when they become pregnant, rather than needing to wait for the birth of their child or the annual enrollment period. The bill would also guarantee 12 months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women, thus removing key barriers that often prevent mothers from getting the care they need after birth.

Specifically, the Healthy MOM Act would:

•Create a special enrollment period (SEP) in the ACA marketplaces and other commercial insurance plans for pregnant individuals once pregnancy is reported, so that they can enroll in or change their healthcare plan;

•Enable the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to establish a special enrollment period for pregnancy, for those eligible to receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and clarify that the enrollment shall be available for families even during a lapse in appropriation or government shutdown;

•Ensure comprehensive coverage of maternity care – including labor and delivery – for dependent children covered by group health plans and other forms of employer-sponsored coverage;

•Protect against threats to Medicaid income eligibility and maintain the highest standard of care for low-income pregnant individuals and infants, and

•Guarantee 12-months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women.