American society practically worships families, but it sure doesn’t make it easy for many people to start them. Our broken healthcare system forces young couples who don’t get health insurance through their jobs to have to save as much money to bring Junior into the world as they do to send him or her to college. From the Los Angeles Times:
In California, health insurers are not required to provide maternity benefits to those who buy their own insurance, leaving women with limited options in a state where the average cost of delivering a baby has reached nearly $13,000.
The dearth of choices forces many would-be mothers into government insurance programs paid for by taxpayers, or to skip prenatal care that can prevent expensive medical complications for themselves and their infants.
All of this drives up costs for hospitals, insurers and consumers buying individual policies, who pay about 20% extra on average for plans that cover maternity services.
Out of 295,000 California women of childbearing age who buy their own policies, 81% do not have maternity benefits. The primary reason? They can’t afford the extra expense, health experts say.
People shouldn’t have to incur thousands of dollars in credit card debt, or give up the dream of starting businesses just so they can have children. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies will be required to offer maternity coverage beginning in 2014. Until then, thousands more Californians could go bankrupt because they chose to start families. But even when the requirements go into affect, greedy insurance companies may still find ways to skimp on the coverage offered or try to stick Moms and Dads with a costly bill.
What does this say about our priorities as a society? That health insurance company profits are more important than making sure the next generation of Californians start out their lives financially secure? That health insurance company profits mean more than healthy children, healthy mothers, healthy families? No insurance company should be able to treat being a child-bearing woman as a preexisting condition, nor should any insurance company be able to financially penalize a woman for having children.
Maternity care should be a right for all women. Having healthy families ensures a healthy and productive society, and should be considered part of the common good. After all, if we’re going to be a society that likes to talk a lot about “family values,” we ought to start acting like those values mean more than just talk.