Organizations across the state show support for Senate measure to increase postpartum care for women on Medicaid. 

Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of infant death in Mississippi and is impacted by some of the same risk factors that contribute to maternal morbidity and mortality.

In order to protect mothers and their babies the Senate has proposed a bill that would extend postpartum care for women on Medicaid up to 12 months. Currently, Medicaid covers a woman’s postpartum care up to 2 months, or 60 days.

More than 50 Mississippi organizations have thrown their weight behind the move by the Senate including: Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians, University of Mississippi Medical Center, The American Heart Association, The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, ACLU of Mississippi, and Mississippi Section, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“Health experts recommend extending Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months to reduce pregnancy related deaths. Cardiovascular conditions are the leading cause of death up to six months postpartum in Mississippi,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Mississippi Government Relations Director with the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association believes that extending postpartum coverage to one year will very literally save lives. Mississippi mothers deserve continuous care after giving birth so they can live long healthy lives for their children and families.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coverage has become indefinite for women on Medicaid. However, those expansions made by the Federal Government will soon come to an end. 20 other states have already extended coverage up to 12 months postpartum.

The bill, SB 2033, was authored by Senator Kevin Blackwell, Chairman of Medicaid, who also attempted to have the coverage permanently extended during the debate over the Medicaid Technical Amendments bill in 2021.

“I believe there is a growing effort among the states to extend postpartum services through Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months. During the pandemic benefits have been extended indefinitely,” said Blackwell. “During this time about 20 states have legislation pending or have applied for waivers to extend coverage to 12 months. Unfortunately, Mississippi leads the nation in infant and maternal mortality. While the infants will have coverage, coverage for the mother ceases after 60 days. Complications of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity lead to maternal mortality. These are conditions which are easily treatable thus saving lives.”

Sen. Kevin Blackwell

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Those who back the bill say that in extending this care it could offset higher costs to the state in the future. This includes preterm birth which is one of the top costs for Medicaid as it impacts a child’s health for years. A full year of postpartum coverage was estimated to cost the state $3,100 per person.

In Mississippi 86 percent of maternal deaths happen postpartum with increasing health issues like blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease and other preventable conditions new mothers face. These could be caught and or managed better if healthcare was available.

Some have classified this bill as an expansion of Medicaid, which many Republican lawmakers have been vocally opposed to. Sen. Blackwell said it is not an expansion but an enhancement of services already provided.

“This is not expansion, if anything it is an enhancement of benefits. We already provide this coverage,” said Blackwell during the Senate floor debate of the bill. “There is no additional tax.”

The cost to the state to extend these benefits to one year would total around $6 million. The federal portion would amount to $26 million.