by Brigette Courtot, Policy Analyst,
National Women's Law Center
To kick off NWLC's recognition of National Women’s Health Week, and in light of yesterday’s Mother’s Day holiday, I’ve been considering how health reform will improve mothers' health across the lifespan. Whether you’re pregnant, a new mother, or have had the role for decades, there's plenty in the health reform law worth noting.
For moms-to-be, the law requires all new health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses to cover maternity and newborn care (larger group health plans are already required to cover maternity care, thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978). It also advances the important goal of increased choice in maternity care providers, by requiring equal reimbursement for nurse-midwives under Medicare and ensuring reimbursement for birth centers under Medicaid.
For new moms, the health reform law stipulates that employers must provide reasonable time and a suitable location for nursing mothers to express breast milk. It includes mandatory federal funding for the creation of maternal, infant, and early childhood visitation programs that offer in-home services to pregnant women and new families, and it also devotes new resources to education, treatment, and support programs for women with postpartum depression.
And for elderly moms ― and the daughters who most often care for them (FYI, the typical family caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who provides more than 20 hours per week of care and support to her mother) ― the health reform law includes several provisions to strengthen our long-term care system. For instance, it creates a new voluntary insurance program to help women pay for the long-term care services they need (including care provided by family caregivers) to continue living independently in the community.
National Women’s Health Week is about encouraging women to take simple steps for a healthier, happier, and longer life, but the reality is that women often can’t access the services and supports they need to take these steps. Fortunately, it's a brand new day for our health system. The new health reform law expands access to affordable health insurance for women of all ages ― regardless of whether they choose to become mothers ― and does so much more to make it easier for women to get the care and support they need, when they need it. If you spent yesterday celebrating mothers, take some time today to celebrate all that health reform does for them.