Statement of Stacey D. Stewart, President, March Of Dimes On Health Insurance Coverage For Maternity Care

February 16, 2017

The March of Dimes released the following statement from President Stacey D. Stewart regarding a comment made today by Seema Verma, nominee to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, during her Senate nomination hearing, that health insurers should not have to cover maternity care under all plans:

“The March of Dimes is profoundly disappointed in the statement made today by Ms. Verma that maternity coverage should be an optional benefit in health plans. Maternity coverage is not a luxury, and should not be considered an optional benefit. There are many reasons to believe that making maternal care an optional benefit could contribute to maternal mortality, preterm birth and infant mortality.

“Most U.S. women require coverage for pregnancy and maternity care at least once during their lives. Women and their partners should be able to make decisions about starting a family based on what’s right for them, not the restrictions in their insurance coverage. Moreover, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, meaning that some women will choose a plan that lacks critical coverage they later find they need.

“Isolating maternity care into a limited set of optional policies will mean the actuarial risk is spread over fewer people and the costs may become unaffordable to those considering pregnancy. As a result, women who did not select or could not afford plans that cover pregnancy could be forced to forgo prenatal care and treatment for conditions such as pregnancy-related high blood pressure or diabetes. Ultimately, this would lead to maternal or infant deaths, preterm birth and other adverse birth outcomes. Tragic outcomes like these would cost far more than limiting benefits would save.

“Coverage for maternity and newborn care must be included in all health plans, regardless of whether the individual believes she will need that care during the plan year. Both individuals and those who carry coverage for an entire family deserve the peace of mind of knowing they will have access to the services necessary for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby under any health plan.”