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Gaps In Maternity Coverage For Some Women Could Grow Under Health Law

There's been a lot of controversy over the health care overhaul's requirement that most health plans this month to start covering contraceptive services for women as a free preventive benefit.

But that requirement may prevent some young women from falling into a coverage gap of a different kind: no maternity coverage.

Individual health insurance policies have long been criticized by women's health advocates for their frequent failure to cover maternity benefits for women. According to a recent report by the National Women's Law Center, only 12 percent of plans in the individual market provide maternity coverage.

But group plans aren't necessarily any better. Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires health plans to provide maternity coverage to employees and their spouses at companies with 15 or more workers, it doesn't require such coverage for other dependents such as adult children.

Under the health care overhaul, children can stay on their parents' plans until they reach age 26 under many circumstances, including if they're married, living on their own and financially independent. The expanded coverage window means that more of them will likely become pregnant while on mom and dad's plan, say women's health experts.

Starting in 2014, the law will require coverage of 10 "essential health benefits" in individual and small group plans. Maternity and newborn care is one of them.

But in a surprising twist, since health benefits at large companies are typically more comprehensive than those at small companies or individual plans, large group plans don't have to provide the essential health benefits.

Women's health advocates hope that the law's coverage requirements will encourage those companies to step up to the plate and provide dependent maternity benefits anyway.

"We would expect fewer employers to not cover maternity coverage for dependents," says Dania Palanker, senior health policy adviser at the National Women's Law Center. "They wouldn't want to offer less than the essential health benefits."

Copyright 2012 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.

NPR

Opulent And Apolitical: The Art Of The Met's Islamic Galleries

Navina Haidar, an Islamic art curator at the Met, says she isn't interested in ideology: "The only place where we allow ourselves any passion is in the artistic joy ... of something that's beautiful."
NPR

How New Jersey Tamed The Wild Blueberry For Global Production

In the past 10 years, the global blueberry crop has tripled. Yet the big, round commercial blueberry is a fairly recent innovation. It was created by breeders exactly 100 years ago, in New Jersey.
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Fannie Lou Hamer and the Fight for Voting Rights

Kojo explores the life and legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor Mississippi sharecropper who became an outspoken voice in the civil rights movement and the fight for voting rights.

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Computer Guys and Gal

Chrysler recalls cars to boost their cybersecurity. Microsoft debuts its new Windows 10 operating system. And navigation tech could bring us robotic lawn mowers. The Computer Guys and Gal explain.

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