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Pregnancy care bill progresses in Massachusetts legislature

Childbirth can be prohibitively expensive for the growing number of people with high-deductible health insurance plans.Getty Images/Caiaimage

A bill requiring health insurers in Massachusetts to cover the full spectrum of pregnancy care with no deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs was reported favorably out of committee Wednesday, advancing a push to make childbirth and other maternity care more affordable.

This is the third legislative session in which the bill has been introduced, but the first since abortions were granted full coverage in 2022. A renewed focus on health equity has also given the issue greater urgency.

Following its recommendation by the Joint Committee of Financial Services, the bill, which exists in the House and the Senate, will be referred to another committee.

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“As we tackle the high cost of health care in Massachusetts, we must bear in mind that all costs are not shared equally. This legislation has the potential to strengthen access and reduce barriers to maternal and reproductive health care for expecting mothers,” Senator Paul Feeney, cochair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, said in a statement. “In the wealthiest country on the planet, you shouldn’t go broke in the Commonwealth if you get sick, and you certainly shouldn’t have to be independently wealthy to grow your family.”

Childbirth can be prohibitively expensive for the growing number of people with high-deductible health insurance plans. In 2021, nearly 43 percent of private health insurance members in Massachusetts had plans that required individuals to pay more than $1,400 out-of-pocket annually ($2,800 for families) for certain services, including childbirth, before insurance coverage kicked in, according to the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis. In 2013, only 14 percent of members had such high deductibles, reflecting efforts to offset rising premiums, and health care prices, by shifting costs to members.

Families with private commercial health insurance are responsible for more than $3,000 on average for delivery costs nationwide, driven by deductibles and coinsurance, according to a 2021 study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics; for one in six families, childbirth exceeds $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

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But insurance companies are concerned. Eliminating cost sharing for all pregnancy care would increase insurance premiums for everyone in the state, according to the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, due to a provision in the Affordable Care Act that dictates the ratio of premiums to consumer cost sharing.


Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her @ktkjohnston.