The letter informs Speaker Gunn that the Division of Medicaid can absorb the costs that would be incurred by expanding postpartum care coverage.
The Mississippi Division of Medicaid has sent a letter to Speaker of the House Philip Gunn outlining their support for extending postpartum care up to 12 months for women on Medicaid.
“When compared to the 60-day period in effect prior to the PHE, a 12-month Medicaid postpartum coverage duration has the potential to improve the well-being of some women and their families, particularly women suffering from postpartum depression,” read a letter authored by the Division of Medicaid in reference to legislation to extend postpartum care coverage.
The letter references the unusual emergencies in healthcare faced since 2020. Exceptions have been made in that time under direction of the federal government. Those include mothers who have received care – some for nearly three years postpartum instead of the typical 60 days.
“In light of these unique circumstances, adopting a one-year coverage duration for postpartum pregnant women as set out in the Senate Bill 2212 is a suitable approach for Mississippi. It also is consistent with the approach followed by similarly situated Medicaid programs in our region such as Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. A 12-month coverage duration also has the advantage of enabling Mississippi Medicaid to align coverage periods for the mom and for the newborn child, who already receives 12 months of full Medicaid coverage after birth.”
Read the full letter HERE.
According to the letter, the coverage is affordable for the state at a gross cost of $32 million in SFY2024, with the state’s share being $7.1 million.
SB 2212, authored by Senator Kevin Blackwell (R), is the Senate’s third attempt at extending postpartum care coverage, all of which have died in the House. Blackwell said he believes if the bill is brought up on the floor of the House, it will pass.
“From the people I talk to, it’ll pass if it gets to the House. But somebody has to let the membership vote,” said Blackwell in early February.
At the time he said he was concerned that the bill would not make it that far.
However, the tide may be turning regarding the House’s position on the Legislation.
Speaker Gunn, who has been opposed to expanding Medicaid, told WTVA on Monday that based on the letter from the division, they no longer consider the particular legislation expansion.
“It’s my understanding that they have now decided that it’s not expansion and they are for it,” Gunn told WTVA 9 News. “So we will take that and consider that and how to move forward.”
This comes after Governor Tate Reeves went on record saying he would sign the legislation if it made it to his office. In his statement, Reeves said that due to living in a post-Dobbs world, Mississippians must make decisions to ensure that more mothers and babies are taken care of.
“I’m willing to to do that as part of our new pro-life agenda. As I’ve said many times, it will not be easy and it will not be free. But it will be worth it, as more children of God are brought into the world,” said Reeves. “The legislature should pass a law continuing this 12 months of postpartum coverage…and, if they do, I will sign it into law.
Until now, many Republicans outside of the Senate have been reluctant to show support of the extension in care. However, Attorney General Lynn Fitch came out in support of the increased care saying that the state must do whatever they can to support women and children.
Postpartum care up until 12-months was first mandated by the federal government as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The provision is currently still in place but will come to an end on March 31, 2023.
Mississippi has one of the highest mortality rates of mothers and the highest mortality rate of infants in the U.S. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) 57.5 percent of the maternal deaths occurred during pregnancy or within the first 60 days after delivery while 42.5 percent occurred more than 60 days but less than one year after delivery.
“Its hard to change what is in somebody’s head, what they believe. From a conservative standpoint I’d prefer not to have a welfare program, but we have it and as long as we have it, let’s provide the care that we should for these folks,” said Blackwell. “Thirty-six other states have passed this. It’s just us an Arkansas and Arkansas is an expansion state.”
The bill faces a committee deadline on Tuesday. It must come out of the House Medicaid Committee in order to move forward in the process. Its Chairman has called a meeting on the issue.