Alabama can extend the Medicaid pregnancy for a full year after delivery

Alabama is expected to join its southern neighbors in extending Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a full year after birth.

“We are deeply concerned about our state’s maternal mortality rate and how it compares to other states — even to other states with similar populations and economies,” said Jane Adams, campaign director for Cover Alabama, a statewide coalition of organizations advocating the cause advocate for the expansion of Medicaid. “There are many factors that contribute to this and we need to address them. But at the end of the day, it’s about access to healthcare.”

Alabama’s proposed general fund budget, expected to be released Wednesday, will include a $4 million allocation to Alabama Medicaid to extend coverage to parturient women for 12 months after childbirth, said Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark ), Chairman of the General Council of the Alabama House Budget Committee of the Fund.

That $4 million is in addition to the approximately $4 million that Alabama Medicaid had already earmarked in its current budget to extend coverage to six months after birth, Clouse said. The extra money in the general fund increases coverage to a full year.

Clouse said Alabama’s investment in postpartum Medicaid expansion will be a year-long “pilot program” for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We’ll see how the numbers move from October 1 this year through September 30, 2023, and we’ll go from there,” Clouse said.

“All of our surrounding states seem to do the same.”

Alabama would become the latest domino in a string of Southern states opting to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage and bring the region more in line with the rest of the country.

Since 2020, heads of state in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have voted to extend postpartum health coverage to a full year after birth.

Alabama appears to be next, with Mississippi right on its heels. A bill to expand coverage in Mississippi has already passed the State Senate.

It is a regional course correction with potentially significant implications. National, Medicaid covers about 40% of births. But in the South, that percentage is much higher: Medicaid covers about 60% of births in Louisiana and Mississippi, 50% in Alabama, and 47% in Georgia and Florida.

In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid — there are 12 of them, almost all in the South — Medicaid is only required to be covered for pregnancies 60 days after delivery. That means new mothers and other birthers can be left without insurance to cover care for physical or psychological problems that occur more than two months after childbirth.

in the past few years, maternal mortality rates have been rising steadily in the US, drawing more attention to the need for improved health care for labour. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate in 2020 was 37% higher than in 2018. The disparity in rates is stark: Black mothers are three times more likely to die than white mothers. The Alabama legislature approved funding in 2020 to establish a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Committee to investigate maternal mortality. One of the committee’s first recommendations was that Alabama expand Medicaid to help more low-income labor mothers afford medical care.

It’s an issue that shouldn’t be political, said Dr. Nadia Richardson, executive director of No More Martyrs, a mental health awareness campaign focused on supporting black women. Richardson and her organization have advocated for expanding Medicaid after childbirth.

“When we talk about the health and well-being of our state’s residents, it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue,” she said. “We have the opportunity to save lives and we should do it together.”

One third of pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after birth. Coverage that ends two months after a birth cuts off access to healthcare at a potentially critical time.

“What’s complicated and frightening is that a mother might experience, for example, high levels of fatigue or dizziness, but not realize that it’s related to a cardiovascular problem,” Richardson said. “It requires ongoing investigations by a doctor to detect complications that may arise.

“Those additional six or eight months of Medicaid coverage have the potential to save many lives.”

On Wednesday, the American Heart Association and other members of the Cover Alabama Coalition plan to gather at the Alabama State House for a rally and press conference to urge lawmakers to pass the General Fund budget with the postpartum Medicaid allocation.

Read the full story at ReckonSouth.com.

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