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Affordable Care Act Gives Pregnant Women Additional Medical Coverage

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United States President Barack Obama’s health insurance exchanges came under heavy fire earlier this year when the system’s central website struggled to keep up with traffic. But now there’s reason for low-income families who did find a plan to be happy: many expecting mothers will receive far better support and far lower medical bills when they head to the delivery ward.

Thanks to the government’s new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid will supplement private insurance for many expecting mothers. For many mothers, this will dramatically decrease the costs associated with delivering a baby in a hospital.

Until the Affordable Care Act’s introduction, most states offered temporary coverage to uninsured pregnant women. The Affordable Care Act offered people ineligible for Medicaid — which is designed to help low-income and disabled people — subsidized private insurance.

But last summer the U.S. government ruled that women could tap into both benefit programs. “Usually you could only be in one or the other,” noted Dipti Singh, a National Health Law Program attorney. “This is different in that pregnant women are eligible for both.”

That said, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around the law. State and federal systems need to be reprogrammed to recognize that women have a legal right to Medicaid and private coverage. This means they can pick one of those two, or some kind of combination.

Matt Salo, an executive director for the National Association of Medicaid Directors, says it’s a nice problem for expecting mothers to have. “This is an issue where women are going to have to figure out, ‘I’m eligible for both, now how do I do that?'” Salo said. “But what a wonderful problem to have. This is a great problem to have from the consumer’s perspective.”

Another lingering question: who will pay for deliveries — the state or federal government? It’s also unclear if the change will prove more costly for U.S. taxpayers.

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