WV Legislature moves to extend maternity care to dependents - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Legislature moves to extend maternity care to dependents

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In an effort to protect mothers and unborn children, the West Virginia Legislature has passed a bill that mandates maternity care coverage for dependents.

Senate Bill 22 requires all insurance companies in West Virginia that provide maternity care coverage to extend that coverage to include dependents up to age 26, in accordance with the national health care reform law. The bill does not extend coverage to include contraception or elective abortions.

"This legislation is a win-win for West Virginia," said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV FREE. "It will save West Virginia money and could save the lives of babies by helping young women get critical prenatal care."

Insurance companies this bill affects includes the Public Employees Insurance Agency, which told lawmakers during the committee process that the cost of extending maternity care to dependents would be spread out among all policy holders. The total cost to PEIA is expected to be about $2.7 million annually.

Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, was one of two delegates to vote against the bill. She said in many instances it's already difficult for low-income state employees to pay their insurance premiums. She also took issue with the fact that dependents could include those who live out-of-state.

 "This bill is paying for adult children who are working and married," she said. "They don't have to be living in West Virginia. The policyholders would be paying for this care."

Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said that may be true, but the number of out-of-state dependents who would enjoy maternity care coverage would be small.

"You could have rare instances where you have dependents who are living out of state," he said. "In those instances, it could pay for maternity care in other states, sure. But we're talking about 600 to 700 children per year. The majority of those are in the younger ages and more likely to be there."

Manchin also noted that these out-of-state dependents are already covered by PEIA.

"They're already covered from the Affordable Care Act back beginning in July of this past year," Manchin said.
"They've got their base coverage. All this is doing is mandating those base coverage include mat care. But it's possible some of them are out of state."

Maternity care for teen mothers also would be covered under this legislation. West Virginia's teen birth rate has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing 17 percent between 2007 and 2009. And often, parents don't realize their teen daughter's maternity care isn't covered by their insurance policy until it's too late.

Delegate Karen Arovn, R-Raleigh, learned that the hard way. Her son's girlfriend got pregnant in high school and although Arvon's family and the girl's family had adequate health insurance, it didn't cover maternity care.

"Because of that, he had to go onto the state welfare system," Arvon said, referring to her grandson. "I appreciate that is there for children who don't have insurance, but we did and we were willing to pay."

Arvon said the situation was "eye opening."

"I didn't know we would face that problem," she said.

Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, also voted against the bill, which passed 97-2.