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How Many Pregnant Women In The US Are Uninsured? Too Many Wait Too Long To Get Covered

Almost half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned or unintended. And finding yourself without insurance coverage while pregnant can be a scary, and expensive prospect. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act coverage for maternity care is designated as "essential" to most health care plans, but that doesn't mean all pregnant women are getting the prenatal care they need. How many pregnant women in the U.S. are uninsured? Too many are waiting too long to get covered, and get caught outside of the enrollment window.

According to a 2006 report from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists 13 percent of pregnant women were uninsured 10 years ago. More than 20 percent of women of child bearing were uninsured, which is higher than the rate of all women who were uninsured, meaning more women found themselves without health coverage precisely when they needed it most.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has brought the overall number of Americans without insurance down to an eight-year low of 11 percent. And that's good progress, but more needs to be done.

Before the ACA, women of child-bearing age could pay 80 percent more for coverage than their male counterparts, even for a plan that didn't provide maternity care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Now plans offered through ACA exchanges have to include maternity care, even if it's a pre-existing condition, meaning you were pregnant before enrolling. And that's great.

But what about all of those unplanned pregnancies? The Guttmacher Institute reported in 2011 that 45 percent of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States that year were unplanned. But if you become pregnant, you can't sign up for health care under the ACA unless it happens to be during the open enrollment period. Groups like Planned Parenthood and March of Dimes are putting pressure on the government to allow women to sign up for health coverage anytime as a result of pregnancy, NPR reported. But the insurance industry thinks that would reward women who wait to buy coverage, according to NPR.

"If you only create incentives for people to enroll when they have a health need, it poses a tremendous risk to the risk pool and affordability for everyone else," Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, told NPR. But the fact of the matter is that women — pregnant women, especially — need to be able to access healthcare, even if they miss the enrollment window.

Women who think they could become pregnant would be wise to use the upcoming open enrollment window to sign up for a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Open enrollment starts on Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2017, according to HealthInsurance.org. Once you're signed up the plans are required to offer maternity care.