The White House announced Thursday morning that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will cover postpartum medical care for a full year, an increase from 60 days, in 14 states plus the District of Columbia. New Mexico is among the states where the expanded coverage is being implemented.
The extension, funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, extends coverage to an estimated 253,000 parents, including 5,000 New Mexicans. The program has been funded for five years, during which time parents are eligible for coverage after more than one birth.
Pelvic exams, vaccinations, screenings for postpartum depression and regular checkups are among the services that will covered.
The coverage is effective immediately and retroactive to April 1, a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed.
In a press call Thursday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris said the measure aimed to mitigate what she described as “a maternal mortality crisis” in the United States.
“Women in our nation are dying from pregnancy-related causes at a higher rate than any other developed nation, dying before, during and after childbirth,” Harris said. “Black women are three times more likely to be affected by this and to die from childbirth related causes. Native women are twice as likely. Rural women, one and a half times (more) likely.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that American maternal mortality rates, defined as the death of women during pregnancy or within 42 days of the pregnancy’s conclusion, have continued to increase since 2017, when the World Health Organization announced that the United States was one of two countries (with the Dominican Republic) with increasing rates despite worldwide declines.
More than half of pregnancy-related deaths occur in the year after birth, according to CMS.
From 2018 to 2020, the number of maternal deaths increased each year even as live births decreased. The mortality rate in 2020 was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. In New Mexico, the average rate from 2016 to 2019 was 18 per 100,000 live births, per data from the New Mexico Department of Health.
The CMS also approved new extensions for California, Washington D.C., Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said announcements would follow of extensions in other states that have applied for the program.
In New Mexico, the extension is projected to cover approximately 5,000 parents.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who participated in the call, said the coverage would close gaps in services in New Mexico and improve health outcomes for mothers and newborn children. She linked gaps in healthcare to poverty and lack of services in the state’s rural areas, which she described as “obstetric deserts.” She specified that the coverage extends to care provided by doulas and midwives.
“This is the way that we creative universal changes to outcomes and access,” she said.
Per CMS, Medicaid covers approximately 42 percent of all births in the United States. Yet after 60 days, parents who lose that coverage often experience gaps or loss of insurance coverage and may miss out on care as a consequence, as reported by the Health and Human Services Department. The outcomes fall hardest on communities in poverty and of color.