July 7, 2022

Assembly approves bill allowing special insurance enrollment period during pregnancy

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State House – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Liana Cassar and Sen. Bridget Valverde to ensure that pregnant individuals are guaranteed to have access to health insurance. With its enactment, Rhode Island will join Vermont, New York and California in providing this coverage to assure all pregnant persons have access to prenatal care.

The legislation (2022-S 2548A, 2022-H 7454A), which is headed to the governor’s desk, requires health insurers to establish a special enrollment period that allows pregnant individuals to enroll in health insurance at any time during their pregnancy.

If an uninsured person becomes pregnant at a time outside the annual open enrollment period for private insurance, they may not be able to obtain health insurance. There is no special enrollment period for private health plans for pregnancy, as enrollment only occurs annually unless there is a “qualifying event.” Even though birth is considered a qualifying event, pregnancy is not, which can leave pregnant people without access to health care if they do not qualify for public insurance. Early, adequate and regular prenatal care is essential for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, because it provides education, counseling, screening and management of preexisting health conditions and risk factors.

“Prenatal care is absolutely essential to a safe, successful pregnancy and a healthy start for children. Without health insurance coverage during pregnancy, there is limited access to health care and a much higher risk of poor maternal and infant health outcomes. Allowing enrollment at any time during pregnancy will help ensure that pregnant individuals get high-quality prenatal care and will result in better maternal and infant health,” said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

Said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), “Maternal mortality has been on the rise in the United States for the past two decades, and is three to four times higher among women of color than white women. Maternal deaths can be prevented with improved access to quality health care. It is critical that every single pregnancy in our state be covered, and we are very happy to pass this legislation to eliminate a needless roadblock to prenatal care.”

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