Written by Cory Richards for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Rand Paul, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, caused a stir last week when he argued that too many births in Kentucky are paid for by Medicaid, the joint federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans. According to Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Medicaid pays for about half of the state’s 57,000 annual births. Paul is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “Half of the people in Kentucky are not poor. We’ve made it too easy.”

In reality, paying for a pregnancy can be anything but easy. According to the March of Dimes, maternity care costs more than $8,800, on average, and these costs can quickly escalate into the tens of thousands of dollars if complications arise (for instance, in the case of a premature birth). That’s why having insurance coverage is so critical. Employer-based group plans usually have good maternity care coverage, but most low-income women don’t get insurance through the workplace. And the National Women’s Law Center has documented that in the individual insurance market, few plans include maternity care coverage at all.

The recently enacted health care reform law would require all private insurance plans to cover maternity care starting in 2014. Meanwhile, however, insurance trends are moving in the wrong direction. Read more