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Pregnancy a Life-Changing Event: TN Women Want Feds' Recognition

PHOTO: Currently, pregnancy is not considered a life-changing event by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and therefore the agency does not waive the open enrollment period requirement for women under the Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: morguefile.com/grietgriet
PHOTO: Currently, pregnancy is not considered a life-changing event by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and therefore the agency does not waive the open enrollment period requirement for women under the Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: morguefile.com/grietgriet
March 25, 2015

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - If a woman in Tennessee gets pregnant while not covered by insurance, she is not eligible to enroll in health coverage under the Affordable Care Act outside of the open-enrollment period. Pregnancy is not considered a life-changing event by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - while giving birth or adopting a child are.

Ashley Coffield, chief executive of Planned Parenthood - Greater Memphis Region, said that needs to change.

"Pregnancy is a life-changing event, and access to health care is incredibly important for women to access prenatal care," she said. "We would like the Department of Health and Human Services to recognize that in order to allow women to enroll at any point during the year."

Planned Parenthood and other women's health advocacy groups are asking citizens to voice their concerns to DHHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, uninsured pregnant women receive fewer prenatal-care services and are more likely to experience hypertension as well as low birth weight and infant mortality in their babies.

Every day, Planned Parenthood Health Centers are seeing the benefits of available health coverage, Coffield said, but that benefit needs to be offered to women as they prepare to become mothers.

"We're seeing more insured women. We're seeing more women who are coming to us with health insurance and how empowering that is for them and their families," she said, "and we don't believe any pregnant woman should have to worry about enrollment dates and blackout periods to get the care that she needs."

Currently, women who qualify for Medicaid can apply for coverage at any point during their pregnancy.

More information is online at acog.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN