New York Could Become First State To Consider Pregnancy A 'Qualifying Event' For Insurance Enrollment

06/23/2015 12:22 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2015

New York could become the first state in the nation to classify pregnancy as a "qualifying event" for health insurance enrollment under a new bill awaiting Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature.

Both chambers of the state's legislature approved the bill last week. Since pregnancy was not included as a qualifying life event under the Affordable Care Act, the legislation would add it to the list of life events -- birth of a child, marriage, divorce, adoption, leaving incarceration and becoming a U.S. citizen among them -- that qualify a New Yorker to enroll in private, employer-sponsored or state exchange insurance plans at any time outside designated open enrollment periods.

The push to add pregnancy to the list of life events gained momentum earlier this year when New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a report highlighting barriers to health care access for pregnant women. Stringer's report noted that uninsured women may face up to $20,000 in out-of-pocket costs for prenatal and maternity care. New York has the country's second-highest rate of unintended pregnancy, at 61 percent.

"The economic and health benefits of proper healthcare during pregnancy and in the early stages of a child's life are well documented," the report read. "A woman should not have to wait until her baby is born to receive the services she needs from our state's insurance marketplace. Through this action, we will show our commitment to the health and wellbeing of mothers and their children, as well as the principle of access to healthcare for all."

Some businesses and the insurance industry had opposed the bill on the grounds that it could open the door to allowing other conditions to become qualifying events, but reproductive rights groups hailed the bill's passage.

"Pregnancies are quite often unplanned, making limited enrollment periods impractical for many women," Andrea Miller, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said in a statement. "This legislation is good for the health of all New York families, and NARAL Pro-Choice New York looks forward to working with Gov. Cuomo to ensure its compliance."

"High prenatal costs increase the likelihood that uninsured women without the option to purchase insurance will simply forgo care, jeopardizing their health," Miller added. "This legislation will improve access to care, leading to healthier women and healthier children."

Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post as to whether he plans to sign the bill.

California may be close to enacting a similar bill, which passed out of the legislature's lower chamber earlier this month.

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