Federal lawmakers must pass a bill that would allow states to provide 12 months postpartum coverage to mothers who lose Medicaid coverage two months after giving birth, and would provide a bump in Medicaid matching dollars for those states, medicine and others said in a letter this week.
The Texas Medical Association and 44 other state and local organizations are urging Congress to pass the Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act, which unanimously passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in November.
“Despite the life-threatening risks that women face in the postpartum period, Texas Medicaid expires 60 days after the birth of a baby, leaving many Texas mothers without access to medical and behavioral health care during a critical time,” the letter says. “Extension of Medicaid coverage for a full year would help more Texas mothers access primary, specialty, and behavioral health care during a critical window of time following the birth of their baby.”
U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), and Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) are among the sponsors of the federal bill, which would also increase the amount of federal Medicaid funds the state receives by 5% for postpartum women for one year to offset the cost of the extension.
“To ensure that Congress has an opportunity to vote on the bill soon, we respectfully request that you include the bill in an end-of-year legislative package,” medicine wrote. “This strong bipartisan legislation … will improve the lives of women, children, and families by helping combat maternal mortality and prevent harmful pregnancy complications.”
Texas’ maternal death rate for new moms – 14.6 per 100,000 live births in 2012, the last year for which there is accurate data – is slightly below the national average of 15.9, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC).
Expanding coverage for new moms will help curb those death rates, particularly in Texas, which leads the nation in uninsured people.
“The majority of Texans agree that lawmakers should do more to improve maternal health,” medicine’s letter to Congress says. “Recent statewide polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found that a majority of Texas men and women say that reducing the number of women who die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth should be a top priority for lawmakers.”
TMA has been working hard to stop all maternal deaths in Texas, including adopting an eight-point plan to protect the health of all pregnant women and new mothers.
A primary component of that plan: expanding coverage for 12 months for preventive, primary, behavioral, and specialty care before, during, and after pregnancy.
During the 2019 Texas legislative session, TMA strongly supported House Bill 744, which would’ve allowed continued Medicaid coverage for eligible women up to 12 months postpartum. HB 744 was voted out of the House 87-43, but did not get a hearing in the Senate.