The best gift we can give to a child is making sure their mother can be there to celebrate their first birthday. But under our current Apple Health for Pregnant Women program, low income mothers lose health coverage just two months after giving birth. This is a dangerous time for women to lose health care – and sets women and families up to fail.
Washington legislators have the opportunity to support the Postpartum Medicaid Expansion Bill (SB 5068), which will extend Medicaid coverage to one year for women who earn up to 198% of the Federal Poverty Level. Extending coverage will improve maternal health, advance racial equity, and help Washington recover more quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage will address our state’s maternal health crisis:
- While some women in dire poverty are able to transition onto the Adult Medicaid program after Pregnancy Medical coverage ends, more than 10,000 women fall through the cracks every year either because their incomes are just a little too high or because of immigration restrictions.
- Behavioral health conditions like depression and anxiety are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in WA. These deaths are from suicide or accidental overdose.
- Many pregnancy-related deaths happen far beyond the 60 days allowed under the current program cut-off date.
- Rates of postpartum depression are higher among women of color and low-income women. American Indian/Alaska Native women are six to seven times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women in Washington State.
Extending coverage will improve the health and well-being, and economic security of Washington families:
- A baby’s first year is a critical period for later health and development. When moms have access to essential supports for their own physical and mental health, they can better provide nurturing, responsive care to their babies.
- Children of moms with untreated perinatal mood and anxiety disorders have a higher risk of behavioral and developmental disorders.
- When women don’t have access to adequate health coverage, they are at increased risk for dangerous complications, expensive healthcare bills, and medical debt, all of which can follow them for decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made extending postpartum coverage even more critical. Since March, we’ve seen an increase in depression, anxiety, and PTSD in pregnant and postpartum women. Women are also at increased risk for economic insecurity, unemployment, and loss of health care coverage.
The choice is clear, and the time is now. Pass the Postpartum Medicaid Expansion Bill!
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