With the passage federal health care reform, all eyes are on health care, health insurance, and what it all means for individuals across the country. In Illinois, AARP and coalition members are working together to pass a law that will repeal a health insurance industry practice of denying women health coverage due to a specific preexisting condition: pregnancy.
Woman in Illinois face significant barriers when attempting to purchase health insurance coverage in the private market. Even with all other factors being equal, health insurance companies in Illinois are allowed to charge women more for insurance simply because of their gender.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, less than 1% of insurance plans available to women in Illinois in the individual market include maternity coverage. While women may be able to purchase a “maternity care rider”, these can cost hundreds of additional dollars each month, often with waiting periods of several years before the benefits are actually fully effective.
Women who do not have maternity coverage frequently avoid prenatal care, putting themselves and their pregnancy at risk. Women who do not receive adequate prenatal care are at an increased risk of poor birth outcomes which leads to more costly care during delivery and the post-partum period.
House Bill 6061, sponsored by Representative Sara Feigenholtz, would require all health insurance plans to cover maternity care. The bill would also prevent insurance companies from considering pregnancy a preexisting condition and would eliminate the practice of gender rating which allows women to be charged more for insurance than men.
AARP and our coalition members, including the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, encourage you to contact your state legislators and urge their support for House Bill 6061. Being a woman should not be a preexisting condition.