Postpartum coverage bill heads to the House where the same language died in Medicaid tech bill last year.
Mississippi women on Medicaid could receive an additional 10 months of postpartum coverage through a bill authored by Senator Kevin Blackwell (R).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coverage was extended indefinitely to those who receive Medicaid benefits. This bill originating in the Senate would keep some of those benefits in place for up to a year. During the pandemic, 20 other states have extended postpartum coverage to 12 months or have applied for a waiver.
“The division [Medicaid] is authorized and directed to provide up to twelve (12) months of continuous coverage postpartum for any individual who qualifies for Medicaid coverage under this section as a pregnant woman, to the extent allowable under federal law and as determined by the division.”
An attempt to extend the current postpartum coverage from two months, or 60 days, to 12 months was made in 2021 with language in the Medicaid Technical Amendments bill. However, as the back and forth between the chambers continued, the notation to allow for the coverage was removed in the House.
“I’m hopeful that this year we will get it across the goal line and they’ll pick it up,” said Blackwell.
Blackwell recalled statements made by former Governor Phil Bryant in 2019, where he wanted Mississippi to be the safest place for the unborn child. With Mississippi’s extensive anti-abortion laws, one of which is being debated in the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwell said the state has attempted to do that for babies in the womb, but once they are out of the womb it seems “you’re on your own.”
“Hopefully by passing this bill we can take care of that. We still lead the nation on infant mortality and maternal mortality,” said Blackwell. “I’d like to see an end to that.”
Some Senators challenged the extension, saying that a typical insurance company will cover six weeks of care until a mother is “released.” This timeframe lines up with what Medicaid already covers for mothers, outside of the COVID-19 circumstances.
“I’m looking for the necessary reason for a mother to be covered past six weeks, and the baby is already covered under CHIPS,” said Senator Angela Hill (R). “I don’t think it’s like we are throwing them out on the street if they get the same coverage my insurance provides for a pregnant woman.”
Blackwell said that data indicates 49 percent of maternal deaths occur within six weeks, but 37 percent still occur after that time frame.
“This is not expansion, if anything it is an enhancement of benefits. We already provide this coverage,” said Blackwell. “There is no additional tax.”
While Blackwell did not have the cost of what implementing 10 more months of postpartum care would cost, he pointed out the tradeoff of less ICU time, ER visits, and NICU stays, all things he says could be avoided and would offset program costs.
Senator Chris McDaniel (R) questioned the continued expansion of coverage and reliance on federal aid. He asked whether or not Medicaid can sustain those costs and increase health outcomes at the same time.
Blackwell hit back, saying McDaniel would be one of the first to fight for tighter abortion laws and “if you want to protect them in the womb, let’s protect them out of the womb for at least up to a year.”
The bill was passed by a vote of 46 to 5 and was then held on a motion to reconsider. When the bill was brought back on the calendar, McDaniel spoke against the bill.
“There is no program in the federal budget, no program in the state budget growing at a more alarming rate than Medicaid,” said McDaniel.
While no numbers were given on the presentation of the bill, McDaniel said if passed the legislation would cost an additional $30 million to the program.
He said his concern lies in why there has been no attempt at reform for Medicaid at the state or federal level.
When Blackwell was able to respond he reiterated this bill was not an expansion of Medicaid but an enhancement in benefits already available.
The motion to reconsider was tabled on Monday which allows the bill to be transmitted to the House for consideration.