California has been long remiss in not requiring maternity coverage as a basic benefit, and this has allowed major coverage gaps in our states, especially for those who buy coverage as individuals. This issue is spotlighted by an LA Times article by Duke Helfand, and on one California family of Joanna Joshua and Kyle Winning who faced limited choices and significant problems.
The article reports that out of 295,000 California women of childbearing age who buy their own policies, 81% do not have maternity benefits.
The article mentions various legislative attempts to require maternity benefits, which were vetoed multiple times by Governor Schwarzenegger. We’ll see if Governor Brown stakes a different position.
There’s also an additional argument: with the implementation of federal health reform, maternity will be a required benefit in 2014. So the question is no longer whether it should be in a basic benefit package, but when we should do it. It makes a lot of sense to phase in the requirement over the next few years, not just to provide a benefit to consumers but to smoothly transition the marketplace. This will be one of several issues that will be revisted in the next year or two.