Postpartum Medicaid expansion receives final approval

Experts said the expansion from 60 days to one year will help improve maternal mortality rates in Arizona.
Saint Mary
Published: Apr. 8, 2023 at 7:25 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -Coverage for postpartum women enrolled in Medicaid through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System will now be extended to 12 months.

In 2022, the legislation was signed by former Gov. Doug Ducey and then approved as part of Arizona’s state budget.

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Arizona’s plan.

“The health of the parent is really critical to the health of the child, and so, expanding this care and being sure that we’ve got healthy birthing parents and women is really going to optimize care for the children as well,” said Erin McMahon, Midwifery Specialty Coordinator for the University of Arizona Health Sciences.

In 2021, there were 1,205 pregnancy-related deaths compared to 861 in 2020 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Arizona, there were 25 deaths for every 100,000 live births according to data from the University of Arizona Health Sciences.

And women of color are at a higher risk.

“We’re seeing that for black and Native American women, the rates of maternal mortality are two to three times what they are for white women in the United States,” said Matt Jewett, director of health policy at Children’s Action Alliance.

Experts said the increase is due to multiple factors including the health care shortage, increased poverty levels, and a lack of health coverage.

“One is access to health insurance, and the expansion of this program within ACHHHS to cover postpartum care for that first year after pregnancy is really going to be very key,” said McMahon.

Prior to CMS approval, postpartum women only had coverage for 60 days when the member was solely eligible based on a pregnancy.

But experts said that was not enough time for these women, as 53% of pregnancy-related deaths occur between seven days to one year, according to the CDC.

“Allowing new moms to keep their, their coverage on access for a year instead of 60 days allows additional time for pregnancy related conditions like postpartum depression, diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Jewett. “It also means that there’s no interruption in care, when somebody is able to keep the same health insurance for a longer period of time.”

McMahon said this extended coverage will also help women in future pregnancies.

“If folks can get in to see their providers and consider contraceptive methods, if that’s something that is important to them, it can allow them to space out a pregnancy before the next pregnancy and optimize their health before they get pregnant again,” said McMahon.

More information on the extended coverage for postpartum women through ACHHHS can be found here.