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Kaine Co-Sponsors Bill to Ensure Pregnant Mothers Can Access Affordable Health Care During and After Pregnancy

Legislation Would Create a Special Enrollment Period for Pregnancy & Guarantee 12 Months of Postpartum Continuous Medicaid Coverage

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced his co-sponsorship of the Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act, legislation that would ensure that all people eligible for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplaces, as well as those eligible for other individual or group health plan coverage, can access affordable health coverage throughout their pregnancies by establishing a special enrollment period (SEP) for expectant mothers. Right now, marriage, divorce, having a baby, adoption, and changing jobs are considered qualifying life events that trigger a special enrollment period. However, becoming pregnant is not considered a qualifying event.

The Healthy MOM Act will allow pregnant people to sign up for or change their coverage when they become pregnant, rather than needing to wait for the birth of their child or the annual enrollment period. The bill would also guarantee 12 months of postpartum continuous Medicaid coverage, thus removing key barriers that often prevent mothers from getting the care they need after birth.

“To combat our nation’s maternal mortality crisis, we need to ensure more women, particularly women of color, have access to the maternal care they need during and after pregnancy,” said Senator Kaine. “This important legislation would do just that by expanding health care enrollment for expectant mothers and helping ensure they receive affordable coverage after their babies are born.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy-related complications. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. The Healthy MOM Act will work to improve these outcomes by expanding quality access to care, which data demonstrate could help prevent three in five pregnancy related deaths.

Specifically, the Healthy MOM Act would:

  • Create a special enrollment period (SEP) in the ACA marketplaces and other commercial insurance plans for pregnant individuals once pregnancy is reported, so that they can enroll in or change their health care plan;
    • Clarifies coverage requirements related to coverage of maternity care for dependent children;
    • Creates a pregnancy SEP for federal employees;
    • Codifies a continuation of Medicaid income eligibility for pregnant individuals and children;
  • Enable the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to establish a special enrollment period for pregnancy, for those eligible to receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and clarify that the enrollment shall be available for families even during a lapse in appropriation or government shutdown;
  • Ensure comprehensive coverage of maternity care – including labor and delivery – for dependent children covered by group health plans and other forms of employer-sponsored coverage;
  • Protect against threats to Medicaid income eligibility and maintain the highest standard of care for low-income pregnant individuals and infants, and
  • Requires states to provide 12 months of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum individuals

Kaine has long focused his efforts on addressing maternal health disparities, especially among communities of color. In May, Kaine reintroduced his bipartisan Mothers and Newborns Success Act to help reduce the egregious racial inequities in maternal and infant mortality. In February, Kaine joined his Senate colleagues in introducing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a collection of bills to address the nation’s maternal health crisis. Kaine has also held several roundtables focused on the issue across Virginia over recent years in WinchesterHamptonOakton, and Lynchburg.

The Healthy MOM Act was first introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and is endorsed by the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, MomsRising, NARAL, Black Mammas Matter Alliance, American College of Nurse Midwives, March of Dimes, Advocates for Youth, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP), and National Partnership for Women & Families.