Teenagers, the report noted, are less likely to get early prenatal care, more likely to smoke and less likely to gain enough weight during pregnancy. Thus, they’re more likely to deliver prematurely, resulting in more complications, including a higher incidence of low-birthweight babies. The medical costs for such an infant is nearly 10 times higher than for a baby of normal weight, the report found ($32,325 vs. $3,325), citing March of Dimes data from 2009. Similarly, getting prenatal care sooner rather than later saved as much as $3,200 in medical costs per person.
Ensuring that young women have access to prenatal care and other maternity services is “definitely cost-effective,” says Jennifer Price, a senior research associate at the center and the lead author of the study. “But it’s such a polarizing issue.”
(iStock) - Health insurers must cover members’ children until age 26, but this rule does not include pregnancy.
‘A basic health benefit’
The health-care overhaul provides assistance to some young women who become pregnant while on their parents’ plans. Under the law, preventive health benefits that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federal agency, must be covered by new plans and by plans that have changed enough to lose their status of being grandfathered under the law. The recommended services include a range of screenings for pregnant women, including those for anemia, hepatitis B and Rh incompatibility.
In addition, starting this month, when a non-grandfathered health plan begins its new plan year, it must provide certain other women’s health services at no charge, including an annual well-woman visit, screening for gestational diabetes and breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling.
Starting in 2014, maternity and newborn care is one of 10 so-called essential health benefits that must be offered by all health plans in the individual and small-group markets, including those that are sold through the state-based health insurance exchanges that will be up and running then.
Large-group plans, however, are exempt from the requirement to provide the essential health benefits, now or in 2014.
But advocates say that companies and insurers should cover maternity care even if they’re not required to. “For young girls, this is a basic health benefit that they need,” says Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “Why would they deny them access to a health benefit that’s so essential?”
This column is produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News. KHN, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.