Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Few individual health policies cover maternity

San Fransisco Chronicle says the number of individual health insurance policies that do not include maternity coverage has risen dramatically in recent years, prompting concern among consumers and a legislative effort to require California insurers to include the benefit.

As more people lose their jobs - and along with that, their health insurance benefits - an increasing number are expected to turn to the individual health insurance market for coverage, an option that is usually less expensive than paying to stay on their former employers' health plans.

Health insurers and consumers who support the right to buy a policy that excludes maternity benefits say they shouldn't have to pay for a service they have no intention of using. They say requiring such coverage would increase premiums and force more people to go without insurance.

Supporters of the mandate, however, argue that denying coverage is unfair to women and that, in exchange for an average $7.17, or 4.24 percent, increase in monthly premium price per individual policyholder, society would save money if fewer women were on government-supported programs.