Photo from the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA)
SB 2212 passed the state Senate and has been transmitted to the House.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi State Medical Association held a press conference in support of Senate Bill 2212, which seeks to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.
Speakers at the press conference included:
- John Cross, MD, President of the Mississippi State Medical Association
- Anita Henderson, MD, FAAP, The Pediatric Clinic/Hattiesburg Clinic Past-President, Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Michelle Y. Owens, MD, MS, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Jackson, MS
Dr. Cross opened the press conference by saying they are at the Capitol to address an issue that has garnered statewide and national attention.
“It’s the protection of mothers and babies through extension of Medicaid postpartum coverage from sixty days to twelve months,” Dr. Cross said. “As you know, Mississippi leads the nation with the highest infant mortality rate, highest pre-term birth rate, and the highest low birth weight rate in the country.”
Twenty-nine states in the nation have extended Medicaid postpartum coverage. This includes Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee.
“We need to do more and do the right thing for Mississippi moms and babies,” Dr. Cross said. “On behalf of the physicians of MSMA, we’d like to thank Lieutenant Governor Hosemann, Senator Kevin Blackwell, and teh Mississippi State Senate for their leadership on this issue. We urge the Mississippi House of Representatives to take a stand by bringing out and passing Senate Bill 2212 to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from sixty days to twelve months.”
Dr. Anita Henderson agreed.
“This is an issue we really talk about every day,” Dr. Henderson said. “Prematurity, infant mortality, and ways that we can help moms improve their health. I’m standing here with physicians from all over our state, we have medical students, we have residents, all in support of twelve month postpartum care.”
Dr. Henderson said every major medical organization in Mississippi supports twelve month postpartum care.
She also thanked Attorney General Lynn Fitch who recently came out with an op-ed in support of twelve month postpartum care.
“Twelve month postpartum care has been supported by the Senate for three years in a row,” Dr. Henderson. “And in fact last year, this bill came to the House and it passed through the House Medicaid Committee. However, it was not brought up for a full vote.”
Dr. Henderson said they are asking Speaker of the House Philip Gunn to allow Senate Bill 2212 to be brought forward for a vote by the House of Representatives.
“This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue, it’s not a red state versus a blue state issue, it’s really not right versus left,” Dr. Henderson said. “It’s a right versus wrong issue.”
“Twelve month postpartum care for eligible moms on Medicaid benefits mothers by providing them the care and access to health care in between pregnancies,” Dr. Henderson said. “Traditionally, moms on Medicaid lose that coverage at sixty days. So after sixty days, they do not have options available.”
Dr. Henderson said that as a pediatrician, she has seen that mothers after sixty days are suffering from things such as postpartum depression, hypertension, Cardiomyopathy, “all these things that happen well beyond that sixty day mark.” She said that is what postpartum care is here to address.
“What I want people to understand is that the first year of life of our babies, their brain doubles in size. It doubles in size that first year of life,” Dr. Henderson said. “And so that’s why it’s so important to provide this care for their mothers. Babies need their mothers and their mothers need healthcare.”
Dr. Henderson said 15% of babies in Mississippi are born prematurely, the highest rate in the nation.
“The Division of Medicaid has estimated that twelve month postpartum care would cost our state between $6 and $7 million per year,” Dr. Henderson said. “Our budget for the state of Mississippi for next year is estimated at around $7 billion. Postpartum care would cost 0.1% of the state budget.”
Dr. Henderson said 65% of babies in Mississippi are born to moms on Medicaid. She said we’re talking about something that affects over 20,000 babies, mothers, and families in Mississippi every year.
“So the return investment is huge,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Every medical organization supports this and in fact, the Mississippi Economic Council also supports this,” Dr. Henderson said. “We know that Mississippi requires a healthy workforce and twelve month postpartum care would help those moms.”
“Mississippi considers itself to be a pro-life state,” Dr. Henderson said. “We cannot just be pro-birth, we really have to be pro-mom, pro-family, and pro-child.”
Dr. Michelle Owens then explained that the United States is currently experiencing a “maternal health crisis.”
She said the state’s increasing maternal mortality rates have been under scrutiny for the last few years.
“We also understand that gaps in healthcare coverage, particularly in our Medicaid population, are a significant contributor to the poor maternal health outcomes that we see,” Dr. Owens said.
She said in her career, she has seen first-hand the transformative capacity of Medicaid coverage for those individuals who don’t have access to health care.
“It may not change the location or proximity to a provider, but just to be able to know that the financial barrier has been removed for them to address many of the things that those of us here might take for granted, means everything to those recipients,” Dr. Owens.
Dr. Owens said 42.5% of the pregnancy related deaths that we see in Mississippi, according to their last report, occur after that sixtieth day of Medicaid coverage. She added that the CDC defines the postpartum period as lasting a full twelve months after birth.
“The extension of coverage can mean everything to a new, growing family,” Dr. Owens said. “I know from my practice that patients don’t stop having problems and complaints after their Medicaid coverage has ended.”
“So to put it simply, Mississippi moms can’t wait,” Dr. Owens said. “And Mississippi has waited long enough.”
Senate Bill 2212 passed the Senate and has been transmitted the House.
Following the press conference, Speaker Gunn told WAPT once again that he and House GOP caucus were not for Medicaid extension and postpartum is a piece of that pie.
State Representative Robert Johnson, the House Democratic Minority Leader, has made several attempts throughout this session to offer amendments to bills that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage.
“We are living in a system where, sure, we say that we want to protect life, but we are doing nothing to protect women and children postpartum after they’re born,” Rep. Johnson said on Tuesday.