Expanding Access to Care

November 2021

A continuation of our series highlighting the issues affecting the low-income moms gaining access to quality health care.

By Lindsey Hill, Intern

Medicaid provides health coverage to 1 in 5 Americans, with many low-income pregnant women relying on the program to aid with delivery expenses. Expectant mothers can qualify for coverage in a couple ways – as a previous recipient of Medicaid services, meeting qualifications at the beginning of pregnancy, or through emergency coverage from delivery up to eight weeks postpartum. Due to life circumstances, many of the women we serve don’t qualify until emergency coverage sets in at delivery.  

For all moms using Medicaid, the ability to access postpartum care used to last for only 60 days postpartum – far to short to benefit the health of mom and baby. However, progress is being made. In 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation allowing states to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers from 60 days up to a full year postpartum. Why is this extension of Medicaid coverage for new mothers so important?

Extending Medicaid coverage will provide insurance for women at a medically vulnerable time in their lives while they are pregnant and after giving birth. Low-income women are disproportionately likely to face life-threatening conditions between 8 weeks and 1 year following their deliveries. This postpartum year is critical for women and extending Medicaid coverage could mean the difference between life and death for many new mothers.

This expansion is significant for low-income women by increasing their access to pre- and post- partum care. Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, has expanded the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program, giving hundreds of thousands of Virginians access to medical care and the opportunity to lead healthier lives. Extending coverage for low-income pregnant women and new mothers will ensure continuous health coverage during some of the most important times of their lives. The previous coverage of 60-days postpartum was simply not enough because continuous health coverage is crucial for keeping women healthy during and after pregnancy. With these new opportunities for expectant and new mothers, we should hope to see an increase in access to quality maternal health care coverage. 

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