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Senate Committee Approves Expanded Insurance Coverage for Pregnant Women

On July 11, the Senate Finance Committee approved, by voice vote, a bill (S. 724) aimed at providing insurance coverage to low-income, uninsured pregnant women. Sponsored by Sens. Christopher Bond (R-MO) and John Breaux (D-LA), the Mothers and Newborns Health Insurance Act of 2001 would allow states to provide optional coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to low-income pregnant women. Under the bill, pregnant women whose children would qualify for SCHIP coverage would be eligible for coverage during their pregnancy, delivery, and for 60 days postpartum. Their newborn babies would automatically be enrolled in SCHIP.

Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) explained the need for the bill, saying, “Under current law, states are required to cover pregnant women up to 133 percent of poverty under Medicaid. They have the option to extend this coverage up to 185 percent of poverty. Children, on the other hand, are covered up to much higher levels. The majority of states cover children up to 200 percent of poverty,” he said, adding, “This imbalance in coverage just doesn’t make sense.”

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