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Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring health insurance plans in California to cover childbirth and other maternity services, eliminating an exception that allowed some smaller plans to exclude those services.

Federal law requires employers who offer health insurance and who have 15 or more employees to cover maternity services, and California since 1975 has required HMOs and large group health insurance plans to do so.

Two bills Brown announced signing this afternoon, Senate Bill 222 and Assembly Bill 210, require individual and small group plans to provide coverage for maternity services starting in July 2012.

"Healthy mothers mean healthy babies," Brown said in a prepared statement. "I want the next generation of Californians to get the best possible start in life."

The legislation was supported by Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California. It was opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce, which said the requirement would deter insurers from offering discounted plans.

Brown's Republican predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed similar legislation.


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