2. Must Have: Maternity benefits
While large employer-provided health insurance plans are required by federal law to cover prenatal care, labor, and delivery, in 2012 just 12 percent of individual plans examined by the NWLC did. Even when people purchased maternity riders, these policies often offered a low benefit for a high cost, says Borchelt. While the ACA made maternity benefits mandatory for almost all plans in 2014, the future of that provision is now uncertain. Considering the average charges for maternity and newborn care—about $32,000 for a vaginal delivery and $51,000 for a C-section in 2010, according to data from Truven Health Analytics
—paying for childbirth costs out of pocket could drive families into debt. (It doesn't help that the U.S. is still the only developed nation that doesn't require employers to offer paid parental leave.)
And lest you assume this doesn't matter if you don't want kids, already have them, or are part of a plan that provides great benefits for women, keep in mind that other people's health issues eventually take a financial toll on everyone in the community. "Poor prenatal care raises the risk of kids being born preterm and with health issues. This can affect parents' ability to work and to support their family," says Michael Miller, MD, senior policy adviser to HealthyWomen
, a national health education group based in New Jersey. Families that lose their economic footing may need to rely on public assistance to stay afloat, Miller says. Healthcare is expensive, but not providing healthcare still has significant costs to society.