Sarah Wildman on the glories of the individual insurance market:
Our six-month-old daughter cost over $22,000.
You’d think, with a number like that, we must have used fertility treatments—but she was conceived naturally. You’d think we went through an adoption agency—but she is a biological child. So surely, we were uninsured.
Nope. Birthing our daughter was so expensive precisely because we were insured, on the individual market. Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy—riddled with holes and exceptions—that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with.
Last fall, the National Women’s Law Center issued a report detailing exactly how women who want to bear children are derailed when searching for out-of-pocket health care. Only 14 states require maternity coverage to be included in insurance sold on the individual market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In contrast, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires employers with more than 15 employees to include maternity benefits in their health insurance packages. “We looked at 3,500 individual insurance policies and only 12 percent included comprehensive maternity coverage,” said Lisa Codispoti, Senior Advisor at the National Women’s Law Center. Another 20 percent offered a rider that was astronomically expensive or skimpy or both. One charged $1,100 a month; others required a two-year waiting period.
It’s definitely worth clicking through and reading in full. (Or, for those who prefer things in podcast form, she talks about it here.) This is one of the many things that an incremental reform package that keeps the private insurance system in place is going to have to regulate very, very carefully.