Missouri is experiencing a maternal mortality crisis, with mortality rates double the national average. The situation is even more dire for Black parents, who die from pregnancy-related complications four times more often than white parents. Researchers have found that many of these deaths stem from preventable causes and occur later in the postpartum period.
Although the full scope of the problem is complex, one solution of growing focus is improving health care coverage for new moms. In 2018, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed their recommendations for postpartum care from a single follow-up visit to ongoing, wraparound care for 12 weeks and sustained support throughout the first year. During this period, there are increased mental health risks like higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. For moms who experienced complications while pregnant or have chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, being able to see a doctor regularly is vital. Providing long-term coverage ensures that health complications are caught and treated early, keeping moms healthy and lowering health care costs.
Currently, pregnant women with MO HealthNet lose their health care 60 days after giving birth. The American Rescue Plan Act, however, now allows states to extend postpartum coverage to 12 months. As of January, 26 states have taken action to do so. In fact, Missouri has already been approved to extend coverage for around 1,000 moms who have a substance use disorder. Although a step in the right direction, this decision leaves out thousands of women who continue to lack access to continuous coverage during the year after birth.
If the state implements the extension, nearly 5,000 more women would gain access to health care. With the state expanding Medicaid, there is a unique opportunity to align programs and ensure mothers can get coverage when it’s needed most. This simple policy change would increase access and quality of care for new moms and save lives.
Our latest policy factsheet, “Examining the 12-Month Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Option for Missouri,” details the policy option and its potential to improve the health of Missourians.