Let’s start out with this startling statistic: more than 10% of U.S. women ages 15-44 are pregnant in any given year. Got that? Among women of reproductive age, more than one in 10 will be pregnant this year.
Apparently, pregnancy is not an unusual state. Note that not all pregnancies end in birth (many end in abortion or miscarriage).
When women are pregnant, they are still human, and they are in a relatively ordinary state of human-ness. A state that should be covered by insurance just as any other relative ordinary health concern is. I have written about this before. Some people find that women are human to be confusing.
Some people think that insurance shouldn’t pay for pregnancy because they are not going to get pregnant. Most insurance has never run like a cafeteria plan–you just got a package of benefits which you might use but probably wouldn’t. The Affordable Care Act has specified that all insurance must cover certain “essential health benefits,”which include pregnancy. For some reason, the inclusion of pregnancy is objectionable, but it is not objectionable that insurance generally covers prostate cancer, vasectomies, and broken penises (yes, this actually happens; see #4 in the link).
As the National Women’s Law Center asks,
Women get pregnant and men don’t, so only women should have to pay for plans with maternity in them… because men do not father children and therefore should not have any financial responsibility for the perpetuation of the species?
In the Los Angles Times, Michael Hiltzig argues that men should pay for pregnancy coverage, the first reason being
It takes two to tango. It’s true, as Ellers observed, no man has ever given birth to a baby. It’s also true that no baby has ever been born without a man being involved somewhere along the line. Limit maternity coverage only to women of childbearing age, and you’re giving many of these guys a free pass.
And Tom Harkin, the Iowa senator, says,
Why should I have to have a policy that covers maternity care? I got to thinking about that. I thought, you know what? Maybe because my wife and I do not have any more children and they are grown up, maybe I should not have to pay property taxes to pay for my local schools. Huh? Why should I worry about it? Maybe only people who have kids going to the public school should pay for it. We are better than that in this country. We are talking about being part of our society.
I would add that the point of insurance is a joint assumption of risk. If you only want to pay for things that happen to you, you don’t ned insurance–you can just pay for the healthcare you actually use. If you want to be in the pool that forks out the money for your care when you need it, then you have to pay into the pool that will pay for others’ care when they need it. The ACA with its requirements was passed years ago. You win some, you lose some, and while it is completely legitimate to advocate for your side of things, at some point a decision gets made and you have to suck it up.
The ACA mandates typical coverage needed by people during the normal course of their lives. Pregnancy is a normal and typical part of the life course–if you consider women to be people.
Note: Here is the first post in the (un)Privileged Body series