NY becomes first state to allow pregnant women to sign up for health care any time

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Pregnant women using New York’s health exchange no longer have to wait for certain open enrollment periods to qualify for health insurance. Photo by Geoff Manasse/Getty Images

Pregnant women using New York’s health exchange no longer have to wait for certain open enrollment periods to qualify for health insurance. Photo by Geoff Manasse/Getty Images

Pregnant women using New York’s health exchange no longer have to wait for certain open enrollment periods to qualify for health insurance.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law Tuesday making New York the first state in the country to allow pregnancy to act as a “qualifying event” for health care on the state health exchange. The legislation passed one vote shy of unanimous in both houses.

“Every woman should have access to adequate healthcare during pregnancy,” New York State Sen. Liz Krueger who co-sponsored the bill said, referring to the law as “common sense legislation.”

The law applies to those who enroll in health plans through the New York State of Health marketplace, set up through the Affordable Care Act. Other qualifying events, which allows individuals to sign up for health insurance at any time, include marriage, divorce, gaining citizenship, loss of job, or birth, but not pregnancy, until now.

Assemblymember co-sponsor Aravella Simotas said, “As a mother, I know firsthand how important prenatal care is and this historic legislation ensures that women and children’s health is not placed at the mercy of an arbitrary date on the calendar.”

A 2015 report by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer stated the new law would provide health benefits for pregnant women and newborns and potentially lead to long-term cost savings for the state’s healthcare system. The report stated babies born to mothers in the U.S. who received no prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth weight than those whose mothers received prenatal care.

“While all Americans deserve access to affordable, high-quality prenatal care, New York State does not need to wait for the Federal Government to act,” Stringer said in the report.

While the March of Dimes and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supported the bill, the New York Health Plan Association, which represents insurers, opposed the legislation, arguing that it would create a disincentive for healthy women to enroll and result in a sicker pool of applicants.

Several other states have already expanded the list of qualifying events beyond those in the federal Affordable Care Act, according to Krueger, but New York marks the first state in the nation to create a qualifying event for pregnancy. “This bill means healthier mothers, stronger babies, and added security for New York’s hard-working families,” she said.

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