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For immediate release: July 11, 2016
Contact: Craig Smith
Phone: 518-402-3130

Governor Cuomo Announces Action to Ensure Insurers Do Not Unfairly Discriminate Against Pregnant and Postpartum Women

 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Department of Financial Services has issued guidance to ensure insurers do not unfairly discriminate against pregnant and postpartum women. In a letter, DFS informed health insurers of their responsibility to properly underwrite life insurance and disability income insurance policies that do not unfairly discriminate against women diagnosed with maternal depression. Under New York Insurance Law, insurers cannot refuse to issue, renew, or cancel any insurance policy because of any past treatment for a mental disability, including maternal depression. Insurers are also prohibited from limiting the amount, type of coverage, or charging a different rate for the same coverage solely because of a previous diagnosis of depression.

“Insurance companies are on notice that we will have zero tolerance for those who seek to unfairly discriminate against and deny services to New Yorkers struggling with maternal depression,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this action, we are helping ensure pregnant and postpartum women across the state have access to the treatment they need to help build healthier lives for themselves and their families.”

Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, “DFS remains committed to ensuring that mothers struggling presently or in the past with maternal depression receive the screening and treatment they and their families need. DFS has previously directed health insurers to cover depression screenings for pregnant and postpartum women without copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles. Today we build upon those reforms by mandating that life and disability income insurance providers do not discriminate against women with maternal depression.”

This new directive follows guidance issued on April 25, 2016 by DFS requiring insurers offering group or individual health coverage to provide, with no copayment, coinsurance or deductible, preventative services such as depression screenings for pregnant and postpartum women.

Today’s guidance also advises insurers that DFS Superintendent Vullo may audit issuers to confirm that any underwriting of a life insurance or disability income insurance policy where maternal depression is relevant is based on sound underwriting and actuarial principles reasonably related to actual or anticipated loss experience.

Senator Liz Krueger, said, “This new policy guidance offers additional important protections to women who have experienced maternal depression. It is critical that New York State ensures that barriers to screening and treatment of maternal depression are eliminated, and that women who receive treatment do not face discrimination from insurers. I look forward to working with DFS to advance policies so that women do not face health insurance barriers to accessing screening and treatment to which they are entitled for this often underdiagnosed condition.”

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Chair of the NYS Assembly Committee on Health, said, “No one should have to confront depression on their own. With this policy, Governor Cuomo ensures that pregnant women and mothers in need who are suffering from maternal and post-partum depression can get the mental health care they need. I applaud his effort to improve access to quality insurance coverage, and once again provide another important solution to real-life problems facing families every day.”

American Psychiatric Association President Maria A. Oquendo, said, “We applaud DFS for its action to help protect residents with mental health conditions. People with mental illness need and deserve to receive treatment without the worry that their insurance will be canceled or not renewed due to their condition.”

National Institute for Reproductive Health President Andrea Miller, said, “Full-spectrum health care should be a reality for women and families across New York. We applaud DFS for moving so swiftly to champion pregnant and post-partum New Yorkers, who need and deserve access to quality preventive mental health care.

Raising Women’s Voices-NY Director Lois Uttley said, “We applaud the Department of Financial Services for ensuring that women suffering maternal depression are not discriminated against by insurance companies trying to deny or cancel life insurance or disability insurance policies. Maternal depression is an all-too-common experience for new mothers. It can be detected and treated effectively, and should not become a reason why women lose the life insurance policies they need to protect their families or the disability insurance to which they are entitled.

A copy of the NYDFS letter sent to insurers can be viewed here.