HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Wolf Administration announced its intent to extend postpartum coverage periods for mothers eligible for Medicaid because of pregnancy to one year.
Joined by the Women’s Health Caucus, the Maternity Care Coalition and Pa. Health Access Network, they said the investment will help with the health and well-being of new mothers and their babies by making physical and behavioral care more accessible to stay healthy.
“Access to health care is essential to well-being. Ending pregnancy-related coverage for mothers covered through Medicaid just 60 days after birth risks mothers going without necessary and potentially life-saving care,” Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead said. “The first year post-birth is a critical time for the entire family’s health and well-being and this expansion will help mothers maintain relationships with care providers undisrupted. As our nation seeks to reverse rising trends in maternal mortality, this coverage can help us save lives and is a necessary investment in maternal-child health across Pennsylvania.”
Federal law makes the eligibility for Medicaid extend to pregnant women with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level for 60 days post-birth. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, states can implement a new option, starting in April 2022, to expand the coverage to one-year post-birth.
“The expansion of postpartum Medical Assistance coverage will help improve long-term health outcomes for entire families and will help decrease the number of pregnancy-related deaths in Pennsylvania,” Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “Maternal mortality is devastating for families and communities worldwide, which is why maternal and child health is a priority for the state. This expansion is not only essential, but is critical to helping ensure mothers have access to important health care and is another step toward creating a healthy Pennsylvania for all.”
Pa. Department of Health reported over 450 deaths between 2013-2018 were pregnancy-associated, defined as deaths occurring while pregnant or within one year postpartum, a 20% increase. They said nearly 60% of all pregnancy-associated deaths came between six weeks and one-year post-birth, mostly outside the 60-day coverage.
Pa. has also continued to follow national trends of the higher maternal mortality rate among Black women and women whose births were covered by Medicaid.
In Pa., Medicaid covers about 3 in 10 births.