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A Special Mother’s Day Thanks to the ACA

By Jenna Temkin,


Ruth Petran has celebrated Mother’s Day with her children for the past 33 years, but this Mother’s Day is special. Ruth says it’s the kind of Mother’s Day that wouldn’t have been possible without the Affordable Care Act.

This is the first Mother’s Day that Ruth will celebrate as a grandmother, as well as a mother. For years, Ruth worried that her daughter’s private insurance policy without maternity coverage would force her to delay having children. Thanks to the ACA’s protections that mandate maternity coverage for all consumers, Ruth’s daughter could access the insurance she needed to start a family and give Ruth the grandchild she had been hoping for.

“I’m a grandmother today because of Obamacare,” Ruth said. “It might have been years before [my daughter] decided it was worth it to pay more for a maternity policy. Obamacare is simply what they were waiting for.”

Before the Affordable Care Act, coverage for maternity care was expensive

As a self-employed photographer, Ruth’s daughter, Amanda, had to find health insurance on the private market for years. In addition to expensive premiums, the health plan Amanda found did not cover maternity care.

Unfortunately, there was no easy way to get around the issue of maternity care. In 2009, when Ruth’s daughter was 27 years old, the National Women’s Law Center found that only “13 percent of the health plans available to a 30-year-old woman across the country provide[d] maternity coverage.” At nearly $400 per month, the insurance plans that offered maternity care were out of Amanda’s price range.

Both Ruth and her daughter feared that expensive premiums would keep her from starting a family. But Ruth realized that Amanda was still young, and she hoped that something would change. As the years went on and Amanda got married, Ruth said she “tiptoed” around the issue of grandchildren.

“I really wanted grandchildren, but I was very cautious about discussing it with her because I wanted it to be her decision,” Ruth said.

The Affordable Care Act mandates maternity coverage

Needless to say, Ruth was ecstatic when she heard that the ACA would allow her daughter to make that decision. Amanda enrolled in a qualified health plan during the marketplace’s first open enrollment period. The policy was fairly similar to her last plan, but this time, she had guaranteed maternity coverage and no amendment on her policy that excluded asthma treatment. [Maternity care is just one of the essential health benefits ACA plans must cover.]

“It felt wonderful that the option was there. It also made me optimistic that one day I would be a grandmother,” Ruth said.

Later that year, Ruth got her wish. While Amanda was home for a visit, Ruth offered her some wine. Amanda said that she couldn’t drink for some time and revealed she was pregnant. Ruth remembers her daughter saying, “We had to wait for Obamacare.”

Ruth said, “It was wonderful finding out I would be a grandmother. I knew right away it had to do with insurance.”

Amanda found an ob-gyn she loved at a great medical center in her network. She was very happy with her maternity care throughout her pregnancy.

On January 2, 2015, Ruth became a grandmother. She traveled from her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan to be in Arizona the day her grandson was born. For the next month, Ruth stayed in Arizona to help her daughter take care of her new grandson. Ruth said she loves everything about being a grandmother, but she said, “The thing I loved the most was just getting to hold him.”

This story is part of the Families USA Story Bank— an effort to give a voice to the millions of health care consumers who have been affected by the Affordable Care Act. For more stories like Ruth’s, go to mycoveragestory.org