CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia lawmakers have resurrected a bill that would require health insurance plans to cover pregnancy care and contraception for insured daughters and wives.
The Senate Banking and Insurance committee amended and approved the bill Thursday. The same committee rejected the measure last week in part because of concerns over the $12.6 million estimated cost for the state to extend the benefit to its own employees.
Bill sponsor Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said the measure was amended to exempt certain types of contraception, such as the “morning after pill.”
The estimated cost is misleading because it represents three years of state insurance costs and does not reflect any savings to the state’s Medicaid program, Stollings said. The cost includes pregnancies of dependent daughters who are under 26 years old.
Lawmakers might consider limiting the insurance coverage to dependents under 18. But the federal health care reform law will require coverage of dependents up to 26 years old and the state would have to reconsider the measure next session, Stollings said.
“I am very pleased that banking and insurance reconsidered it,” he said of the bill. “Most other insurance are covering this anyway, most of the group and third-party commercial folks cover that anyway. It’s just state employees are not seeing the benefit.”
Lawmakers have debated extending such coverage to teens and young adults through their families’ policies for several years. West Virginia is also the only state to see its teen pregnancy rate increase while the national rate dropped.
Lawmakers argue it is cheaper for insurance companies to pay for pre-natal care than to pay for the expensive care needed if a child is born premature or suffers from low birth. And new mothers without insurance often rely on Medicaid, which is supported by taxpayers, or subsidized care from health providers.