Giving birth could bankrupt women under GOP's health plan

Under the GOP's proposed new healthcare law, new bundle of joy might just break the bank, according to an article from Kaiser Health News (KHN).

Giving birth has long been an expensive undertaking. Independent of the costs of prenatal care and screening tests, a vaginal delivery costs an average of almost $9,000, while c-sections are more than $11,000, according to data from healthcare information company Castlight and reported by CNBC (KHN's estimates are even higher, at $30,000 and $50,000 respectively).

For a woman with employer-sponsored health insurance, that cost would be divvied up between the insurer and the patient. But before the Affordable Care Act, only about 12 percent of plans would cover maternal care, KHN reports. That all changed under the ACA—maternity and newborn care were one of the 10 essential health benefits required to be covered by any plan sold on the state health exchanges, so women could be certain that they would be covered, even with the most basic high-deductible plans.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), Republicans' proposed law to replace Obamacare, would likely eliminate the provision of maternal care from health insurance plans. This is under the rhetorical guise of giving women more choices in their healthcare.

"Women have to make the decisions that work best for them and their family," said Seema Verma, Trump's choice to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in her confirmation hearing. "Some women might want maternity coverage, and some women might not want it."

Senators and healthcare experts (including the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that under the AHCA 24 million Americans would lose health coverage by 2026) have pointed out that in practice, "choice" means that more women will ultimately have to pay more to have a baby—with fewer of the costs covered, women will have to limit their options to the plans they can afford, or no plan at all. And that's not good news for women who might end up pregnant by accident, as their access to birth control or abortion is limited by bare-bones health plans or defunded Planned Parenthood.

Some experts in favor of the ACA are skeptical that the new health plan could cut too much into the maternal health provision, as many states have past similar measures mandating that insurers cover maternal health, KHN reports. And the AHCA, already unpopular in the public, healthcare providers, and on Capitol Hill, could be amended before it's passed, if it's passed at all. For the sake of would-be mothers who would be having babies in a world of Trumpcare, let's hope the experts are right.