Today, the Senate Finance Committee debated Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) amendment to prohibit the federal government from “defining the health care benefits offered through private insurance.” Kyl tried to make his case by citing the unnecessary expense of maternity care. He was quickly smacked down by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):
KYL: I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.
STABENOW: If I could just interject once with my colleague — I think your mom probably did. (LAUGHTER)
KYL: Over 60 years ago my mom did. (LAUGHTER) You notice I wasn’t too specific with regard to that.
Of course Kyl doesn’t need maternity care; he will never be a mother. As Igor Volsky notes at the Wonk Room, Kyl’s amendment “would prohibit the government from defining which benefits should be included in a standard benefit package and would permit health insurance companies to design policies that exclude higher-cost beneficiaries.”
Maternity care, in fact, is a perfect example of why Kyl’s amendment is so bad. Most individual health insurance markets don’t cover maternity care. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 14 states have a requirement for such coverage, and the number of plans without maternity coverage continues to rise dramatically. Anthem Blue Cross — which has been actively fighting health care reform — considers pregnancy optional and therefore not necessary to insure:
“The point of insurance is to insure against catastrophic care costs. That’s what you’re trying to aggregate and pool for such things as heart attacks and cancer,” said an Anthem Blue Cross spokesman. “Having a child is a matter of choice. Dealing with an adult onset illness, such as diabetes, heart disease breast or prostate cancer, is not a matter of choice.”
“A well defined minimum benefits package would compel health insurers to provide basic services to all Americans,” adds Volsky. “The Kyl amendment, which ultimately failed, would have allowed the industry to continue profiting from discriminatory practices.”