During a hearing on Obamacare implementation Tuesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) offered a powerful rebuttal to those criticizing the Affordable Care Act’s inclusion of maternity care coverage as one of ten “essential health benefits” categories that insurance companies must offer consumers under the health law.
ACA critics have held up the maternity coverage requirement as a prime example of excessive Obamacare regulations that will drive up insurance policy prices by forcing plans to include frilly benefits that a consumer may not need. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) sarcastically asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius if she had ever hear of a man giving birth during a House hearing last week, and numerous critical media accounts have picked up on the argument.
Harkin responded to this line of thinking on Tuesday by comparing the overall societal value of the coverage requirement to the value of public education, which is funded through property taxes:
HARKIN: Now, I must say there was a story the other day in the paper about somebody who said, “Now I got — I have to take this policy that covers maternity care. My wife and I are not having more children. Why should I have to have a policy that covers maternity care?” I got to thinking about that. I thought, you know what? Maybe because my wife and I do not have any more children and they are grown up, maybe I should not have to pay property taxes to pay for my local schools. Huh? Why should I worry about it? Maybe only people who have kids going to the public school should pay for it. We are better than that in this country. We are talking about being part of our society. It is to our benefit, my wife and I, to support our local schools because that is our next generation, we want them well taught. Same with health care. It is a values system.
A 2012 National Women’s Law Center study found that, even including states that already mandated maternity coverage before the ACA was passed, just 12 percent of total individual health plans in the country offered women maternity benefits.