MAP: Mississippi makes it especially difficult for low-income new moms to access health care

MAP: Mississippi makes it especially difficult for low-income new moms to access health care

Low-income women in Mississippi have less access to health care in the months following childbirth than their counterparts in every state except Wyoming.

Mississippi and Wyoming are now the only two states in the nation that have neither expanded Medicaid eligibility for low-income working adults nor extended postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers beyond 60 days. after birth, according to data compiled by the nonprofit health organization KFF.

The other nine states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility have all sought to expand postpartum coverage in recent years. Seven of them, including Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, have extended coverage to one year after birth. Texas and Wisconsin have sought federal approval to implement shorter extensions of six months and 90 days, respectively.

“We know that infant mortality and maternal health are challenges for our state,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, a Republican who opposes Medicaid expansion, said when he introduced his proposal. Expand Postpartum Coverage in 2020. “One in two births in Tennessee is covered by our Medicaid program.

In Mississippi, that number is higher: about six in 10 births are covered by Medicaid.

During the ongoing COVID-19 federal public health emergency, states are not permitted to deport anyone from Medicaid. As a result, women who have given birth since March 2020 will be covered until the emergency is lifted, potentially as early as early 2023.

But normally, a Mississippi woman with two children and a partner earning $3,000 a month together, for example, would lose her Medicaid coverage two months after the birth of her baby.

The same woman living in Alabama, who did not expand Medicaid eligibility but approved a 12-month postpartum coverage extension earlier this year, would have health insurance until her baby is a year old . And the same woman living in Arkansas who expanded Medicaid but did not expand postpartum coverage would have health insurance before and after her pregnancy, because she would be eligible based solely on her income.

In Mississippi, women whose pregnancies are covered by Medicaid are losing the ability to attend checkups, seek treatment for postpartum depression, and receive care for chronic conditions when their babies are just two years old. month.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, has repeatedly rejected the postpartum Medicaid expansion, which easily passed the Senate in the last session. He described the proposal as an extension of Medicaid, although it would not make more people eligible for Medicaid. Almost every other state that declined to expand Medicaid nonetheless expanded postpartum coverage.

Last week, some of the state’s top doctors told the Senate Medicaid Committee that expanding Medicaid postpartum would not only improve abysmal maternal and child health outcomes, but also save money. ‘silver.

Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation and the highest premature birth rate. Dr. Anita Henderson, a pediatrician and president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the hospital cost of delivering a healthy full-term baby is usually around $5,000 to $6,000. dollars. But an extremely premature baby requires a long stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), at the average cost of $600,000.

State Health Officer Dr. Daniel P. Edney mentioned that Mississippi is one of only two states that has neither expanded postpartum coverage nor expanded Medicaid eligibility.

“What I beg us to consider is the fact that it makes much more economic sense to let Medicaid pay for this rather than the state having to pay for it – either state agencies such whether the health department paying, or hospitals paying with unpaid services. care,” he said.

Pregnant women in Mississippi are eligible for Medicaid as long as their household income is below 194% of the federal poverty level, or about $4,600 per month for a family of four.

But after giving birth, a Mississippian woman with children is only eligible for Medicaid if she has very low income, earning $578 or less a month for a family of four.

With such a strict income eligibility requirement, it is virtually impossible for anyone with a full-time job to qualify for Medicaid coverage. (And healthy adults without children are never eligible for Medicaid in Mississippi.)

In states that have expanded Medicaid, including Louisiana and Arkansas, adults whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $3,200 for a family of four, are eligible for insurance. sickness.

An analysis by consulting firm Manatt found that expanding Medicaid eligibility would roughly halve the number of Medicaid enrollments during pregnancy, as many women would be eligible based on their income alone.

Wil Ervin, deputy administrator of health policy for Mississippi Medicaid, told the Senate Medicaid Committee last week that extending postpartum coverage to one year would cost the state about $7 million.

— Article credit to Mississippi Today’s Isabelle Taft —

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