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Bill expands insurance access for the pregnant

January 21, 2016
By Jimmy McCarthy ( , Westfield Republican

A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expanding health insurance access to pregnant women.

The measure garnering approval from the state Legislature in June permits pregnant women to enroll in the state health insurance exchange at any time during their pregnancy, deeming it a "qualifying life event" in order to obtain benefits. New York is the first state in the nation to designate pregnancy as a qualifying life event, according to the governor's office.

Previously, pregnancy was not included on the list of qualifying life events which include a divorce, birth or adoption of a child, marriage or death of a spouse. Enrollment through the exchange is available from October through December.

"This legislation will help expectant mothers get access to essential prenatal care and help build a stronger and healthier New York," Cuomo said.

For Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Jamestown, the need for solid prenatal care was a deciding factor to support the bill with data showing better outcomes and less problems. Birth problems as a result of a failure to obtain prenatal care can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and lifetime implications for the baby and mother, Goodell said.

"That's why I supported the bill," he said.

However, Goodell said the bill is not without problems as it will drive up health insurance costs for those in the exchange. The law opens the door for people who didn't join the health system until they face substantial health care costs, thus having a negative impact on the overall system, he said.

"The way insurance can keep rates low for everyone is if they're paying into the system," Goodell said. "The irony is that in order to ensure that they get prenatal care, and to maximize positive outcomes during pregnancy, we carve an exception for women who violated law requirements to get insurance when they weren't pregnant so they could join when they become pregnant."



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