Having a baby and starting a family should be the most natural thing in the world – not something that puts families at the brink of bankruptcy. Yet, families in America are finding themselves paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for pregnancy and childbirth related costs – even when they already have health insurance in place when getting pregnant.
The New York Times ran a piece on the increasing cost of child birth in America, interviewing couples who already had health insurance when they got pregnant yet still were slapped with bills for thousands of dollars that they had to pay themselves. Many insurance packages do not include maternity benefits; in order to get maternity health care covered, families must pay hundreds of dollars extra per month. Without maternity coverage, pregnancy-related expenses can easily run in the tens of thousands – sums hard to pay even for employed and well-earning couples, let alone couples making low or medium incomes that overqualify them for Medicaid.* While conservatives are waging a war on women’s reproductive and sexual rights, the costs of having a baby can easily seem like too much to bear.
The Obama administration’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare”, was enacted in 2011. The legislation has brought tremendous positive changes to women’s sexual and reproductive health care services, such as requiring health care plans to provide women with no-cost coverage for all FDA approved methods of contraception and sterilization. This is a huge step forward in the fight for affordable and accessible sexual and reproductive health care services for American women, who continue to battle for the right to control their own sexual and reproductive decisions. Access to birth control not only gives women more power to determine when and how they want to get pregnant, but affordable contraceptives are also likely to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.
For women who do want to get pregnant or are already pregnant, the health care act brings several other benefits as well. Under the new Act, pregnancy can no longer be treated as a “pre-existing condition” and used as a reason to deny insurance coverage for women; women cannot be charged higher insurance rates merely because of their sex; and maternity care has to be offered in all new health care plans. These changes will allow more women, and more couples, to rest assured that when they do decide to get pregnant and start a family, pregnancy and childbirth will not result in astronomical out-of-pocket costs. Thankfully, the essential health care services required during pregnancy, in child birth and after delivery, will be available for affordable rates and covered by insurance plans.
Discussions and debates about sexual, reproductive and maternal health often rotate around women, fueling the perception that women’s health is solely a women’s issue – but it is also important to remember that these services, while focused on women, are essential to entire families. Family planning is not merely a women’s issue, and affordable pregnancy care is not only essential for women’s health, but for the health and well-being of their babies and spouses as well. Contraceptives are not only a women’s issue because every pregnancy, whether intended or unintended, is the result, and responsibility, of two people. For both men and women, the ability to control when, how, and with whom to start a family and to ensure that creating that family is done in a safe and healthy way not only benefits women, but families and societies on a much larger scale. While health reform is, in many ways, a women’s issue as women carry much of the burden of the previous broken system, the benefits of fixing it have repercussions that reach far beyond women’s well being and health. Realization of women’s sexual and reproductive rights benefits everyone – which should be a goal and result that everyone, across party lines, could stand behind and strive for.
For more information on ObamaCare’s implications for women, please visit the below resources.
- Women and Obamacare – Center for American Progress Report
- The Top 5 Ways the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Obamacare Helps Women (ThinkProgress)
- ObamaCare Facts: Women’s Health Services
* Medicaid is the US government’s health insurance program for poor families and individuals.
Featured image by Flickr user Tatiana Vdb. Image listed under Creative Commons license.