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As maternal mortality increases, states push to extend Medicaid benefits

U.S. Births babies
Posted at 12:04 PM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 15:14:26-04

Hospital stays for 4 in 10 births in the United States are funded by Medicaid according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but for many mothers, Medicaid benefits are cut off 60 days after giving birth.

The American Rescue Plan, passed in 2021, included an option for states to extend those Medicaid benefits. According to KFF, 16 states have chosen to use that provision as their benefits to new mothers extended from 60 days to a year starting in April.

14 other states are planning to implement coverage extensions, and 13 are not.

“All patients need postpartum care because we never know who is going to have a problem,” said Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu, medical director of the Women’s Health Center at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “You can have patients that do very well and develop high blood pressure after their pregnancy. We can’t always predict that. It’s not assumed because everything was going well that they might not have a problem.”

Since 2018, the maternal mortality rate in the United States has risen from 17 deaths per every 100,000 live births to 24 deaths per every 100,000 live births, according to CDC data.

Each state individually tracks when those deaths occur, but the data shows the majority happen more than six weeks after birth. In Ohio, for instance, 50% of the state’s 731 pregnancy-associated deaths between 2008 and 2017 happened between 43 days and a year after delivery, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Data also shows that Black mothers are three times more likely to die from birth than white women and they routinely make up the higher percentage of Medicaid recipients in each state.

“We have a huge problem with maternal mortality in this country and a lot of it is connected to not having access to adequate care. So, this move [to extend benefits] is going to save lives,” said Dr. Kamilah Dixon, a member of Ohio’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee and is medical director of Moms2B at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

For years, Moms2B has given mothers a resource for their postpartum care. Dr. Dixon says between 60% and 70% of the program’s beneficiaries are Black and most are on Medicaid.

“Everyone deserves excellent care,” she said.