Washington, DC ― Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) praised Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for introducing the Senate version of the Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (MOM) Act, legislation originally authored by Watson Coleman that would create a special enrollment period allowing pregnant individuals to enroll in, or make a change to, their health insurance coverage.

“Expecting mothers deserve the ability to offer their babies the best chance at a healthy start, but without insurance, that’s extremely difficult for most mothers to do,” Watson Coleman said. “I’m thrilled to see Senate action on this simple vital, step to support our nation’s women, and I thank Senator Brown for his work on this issue. Pregnancy is filled with challenges and surprises ― wondering if and how to pay for the cost of care shouldn’t be one of them.”

Currently, individuals who become pregnant outside of the Health Insurance Marketplace’s open enrollment period, which began on Nov. 1, cannot change an existing plan or enroll in new coverage. Expecting mothers left in this loophole may face significant out of pocket costs for prenatal care, or be forced to forgo prenatal care altogether. The Healthy MOM Act would give pregnancy the status of other “qualifying life events,” like getting married, giving birth, or adopting a child, that trigger Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) for health insurance beyond standard open enrollment.

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According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), more than one million babies are born to mothers that did not receive adequate prenatal care each year. Nationwide, maternal mortality rates are three to four times higher for mothers who do not receive prenatal care compared with mothers who do, and babies of mothers who do not receive prenatal care are five times more likely to die and three times as likely to be born prematurely compared with mothers who receive adequate care.

Brown introduced his legislation with 22 Senate cosponsors. 97 Members of the House have cosponsored Watson Coleman’s bill. For the full text of the House bill, click here. For the full text of the Senate companion, click here.