Our guest blogger is Jessica Arons, director of the women’s health and rights program at the Center for American Progress. Cross-posted from RH Reality Check.
People always say good health is the greatest gift, so let’s make health a priority this Mother’s Day. Now that I am a mother myself, I am even more appreciative that I have health insurance that covers the care I need. All moms deserve the kind of quality, affordable care that I was lucky enough to receive while pregnant and postpartum, and Obamacare is working to make that dream a reality.
While pregnant, what did I need the most—that is, besides a foot massage? Maternity care, of course. My prenatal visits reassured me that my pregnancy was progressing as it should and my insurance allowed me to use the provider of my choosing, labor in the setting I wanted, and get the emergency care I ultimately needed. Unfortunately, only 12 percent of plans in the individual health insurance market currently offer maternity coverage. Thankfully, starting in 2014, Obamacare will require all new health plans to cover maternity care as the essential health service that it is.
Needing an emergency C-section was the first sign that I was no longer calling the shots. It’s fine if my son has his own plans, but not the insurance industry. Insurers currently can deny women coverage for specific health services or entire plans due to gender-related “pre-existing conditions” such as Cesarean sections, breast cancer, domestic violence, and sexual assault. The idea that my surgery could disqualify me from obtaining coverage on the open insurance market is both absurd and deeply offensive. But this discriminatory practice becomes illegal under Obamacare in 2014.
After my son was born, my pediatrician’s office began to feel like a second home with the amount of time I had to spend there his first year. I am lucky enough to have a low co-pay that I can afford, but for far too many families those co-pays are not just a minor inconvenience. Obamacare ensures that families can afford to bring their children in for vaccinations and other routine visits by eliminating cost sharing, such as co-pays or deductibles, for well-baby and well-child care.
Whoever said breastfeeding comes naturally? Like so many of my peers, I was surprised to encounter all sorts of difficulties with nursing. I relied heavily on my local breastfeeding center to help me diagnose and address the problems I had, an expensive but incredibly helpful service. Had I not been able to afford those hefty out-of-pocket fees, there is no way I could have continued nursing my son, providing him with valuable antibodies and nutrients and strengthening the mother-child bond. The good news is that this August, nursing mothers in new health insurance plans will receive no-cost coverage for lactation supports that include counseling and equipment.
Nursing moms who return to work also will benefit, as I did, from the requirement that large employers provide breaks and a private space for expressing breast milk. I was very thankful for this provision, especially when I heard the horror stories of women who were forced to pump in a bathroom stall or in their cars—or those who were fired for requesting pumping breaks. With such obstacles in place, it is no wonder that only 36 percent of U.S. infants are breastfed past six months, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing through the first year. Obamacare should help that rate finally improve.
Despite these amazing benefits and more, the health reform law is under siege. It risks being overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by conservative politicians. This Mother’s Day, let’s give moms a gift that is truly important and will really last. Let’s do everything we can to make sure Obamacare is fully implemented and remains the law of the land.