CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ One of the physicians serving in the West Virginia Legislature hopes to revive a measure extending pregnancy and birth control coverage to the dependents of insurance policyholders.
Senate Health and Human Resources Chair Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said Friday that he’s reaching out to members of the Banking and Insurance Committee after they rejected the bill Thursday.
“There is hope that this bill will be reconsidered and, if need be, amendments made,” said Stollings, who is a doctor.
Banking and Insurance Chair Joe Minard said the potential price tag for insurers likely prompted the close vote against advancing the bill to the full Senate.
The Public Employees Insurance Agency, for instance, estimates that expanding this coverage would increase its costs by $12.6 million over the next three years.
The agency cites federal law that allows children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies up to age 26. The agency projected that 2,856 dependents would seek contraceptive services during that three-year period. The estimate for that time also predicts 26 births for teens aged 16 to 19, and 625 more for those 20 to 26.
“That might have been the major issue,” Minard said Friday.
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 hit a seven-decade low.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the pregnancy rate for West Virginia girls between 15 and 19 years old increased by 17 percent from 2007 to 2009. The national rate, meanwhile, fell 8 percent.
A 2010 study by Marshall University’s Center for Business and Economic Research estimated that teen pregnancies cost West Virginia taxpayers $45 million a year. That figure included $11 million for public health care and $14 million for child welfare.
“The teen mother and the child that’s born, the studies have shown that they both have terrible outcomes,” Stollings said. “The societal cost of that is great.”
The Marshall study, reported to lawmakers as part of the debate over dependent coverage, also touted the potential savings through insurance for birth control. Stollings said the same is true for coverage of pregnancy and maternity services.
“The point I’m making is, the state of West Virginia is paying for those deliveries anyway, because many of these end up as Medicaid deliveries,” Stollings said. “The problem is, we lose out on good prenatal care. That increases your risk (to the baby).”
A House-Senate interim committee had drafted and endorsed the bill during last year’s monthly study meetings. If Minard’s committee agrees to reconsider the measure, Stollings said he will ask that Senate Finance review it as well and scrutinize the potential costs and savings.