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Agencies lobby for women's health legislation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Representatives from several women's health agencies are encouraging the Legislature to pass a bill requiring insurance companies to offer maternity-care coverage to dependent daughters.

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, WV FREE and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence met with lawmakers Tuesday during an annual lobby day for women's health at the Legislature.

Most insurance companies already cover maternity care for dependents, but the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency specifically excludes that coverage, said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free. Two proposed bills (SB 22 and HB 2383) would change that.

"The thing with PEIA is that if your child breaks a leg or has a cold and needs to go to the doctor, she's covered, but if she becomes pregnant she's essentially kicked off her parents' plan."

Young women are more likely than others to have complications related to pregnancy, she said.

According to a fiscal note summary from PEIA, covering maternity care for dependents up to age 26 is estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $3.1 million a year between now and fiscal year 2016.

But Pomponio said covering maternity care for dependents would save Medicaid dollars, since the government program typically ends up covering those costs.

"West Virginia can't afford to turn its back on our daughters any longer," she said. "Our question is, 'What kind of message are we sending to [teenagers] by telling them we won't cover maternity care?'

"That it's OK to be irresponsible and it doesn't matter if you have health care to have a healthy pregnancy and baby?"

West Virginia is currently ranked ninth in the nation for the number of teen births, according to a statement from WV Free.

The agencies are also supporting a bill that would allow clinics to treat the sex partners of those who are treated for sexually transmitted infections without a clinic visit. Under the bill, one partner could receive prescription or over-the counter medication from the partner who actually visited the clinic.   

The agencies, however, are against proposed state cuts to sexual assault prevention, domestic violence programs and the West Virginia Women's Commission and the Center for Excellence in Women's Health.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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