Dialogues: Losing Health Insurance after Giving Birth

Summary:

At 19 years old, Chardonnay Reed learned she was pregnant and would need to sign up for health insurance–fast. Texas has a system to ensure people in her position are covered. But the process of signing up wasn’t easy by any means. With help from her mother-in-law, she figured it out and was relieved.

Chardonnay had a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby. Then she learned how feeble her health insurance really was. She technically had coverage, but only for some hospitals, and only for some parts of her body. And then, just two months later, her insurance disappeared entirely.

Chardonnay Reed, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, and Jack DiMatteo

Disclaimer: This video does not constitute a political endorsement.

At 19 years old, Chardonnay Reed learned she was pregnant and would need to sign up for health insurance–fast. Texas has a system to ensure people in her position are covered. But the process of signing up wasn’t easy by any means. With help from her mother-in-law, she figured it out and was relieved.

Chardonnay had a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby. Then she learned how feeble her health insurance really was. She technically had coverage, but only for some hospitals, and only for some parts of her body. And then, just two months later, her insurance disappeared entirely. 

Like many mothers, Chardonnay suffered from mastitis, a skin infection caused by breastfeeding that can be extraordinarily painful. At one point she also had abdominal pain and went to the emergency room, where she received expensive tests and imaging. Cumulatively these experiences resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of bills that she is still struggling to pay off nearly two years later. 

For pregnant Americans, one of the cruelest features of our health care system is that two months after having a baby, often when people need support most, insurance coverage from our public Medicaid program can be suddenly stripped away.

We spoke with Chardonnay about her experience, what she wishes could have been different for her, and what she wishes will be different from others in her position. We also hear from Congresswoman Lauren Underwood and her staff Jack DiMatteo about what we can do to ensure pregnant people do not lose their health insurance when they need it most. We learn about the Black Maternal Health Caucus, and how public policies can build upon the Affordable Care Act to extend Medicaid insurance coverage through the full first year after having a baby. 

If you are interested in learning more about the challenges pregnant people face after giving birth and the work of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, we have included some resources below:

https://marchformoms.org/advocacy/

https://www.momsrising.org/take-action

https://blackmaternalhealthcaucus-underwood.house.gov/Momnibus

Credits:
Editorial consultant: Kimberly Seals Allers
Research assistant: Yara Altaher
Research manager: Jocie Fifield
Video editor: Mark Hoelscher

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