Modern Medicaid Alliance Urges Congressional Action to Address Maternal Health Crisis

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Washington, D.C. – (December 17, 2021) – Modern Medicaid Alliance partners are emphasizing the urgent need to address maternal health. Congressional action is critically needed to address rising maternal mortality rates and disparities in health outcomes, and ensure affordable, high-quality health care and services for pregnant and postpartum women. Specifically, the Modern Medicaid Alliance encourages Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to expand Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 365 days, or 12 months, postpartum.

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate – that is, deaths within one year from the end of a pregnancy – of any developed country. In fact, maternal mortality has jumped from 10.3 per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 17.4 in 2018. Women of color account for a disproportionate number of those deaths. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 3.3 and 2.5 times more likely, respectively, to die from pregnancy-related causes than non-Hispanic white women.

Earlier in 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act gave states a new option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months via a state plan amendment. However, the new option is only available to states for five years.

Research indicates that women have significant medical needs up through the first year after delivery and the mother’s health is connected to their child’s health and wellbeing. According to the Mayo Clinic, a pregnancy within 6 months of a live birth is associated with increased risks to the baby’s health such as premature birth, the placenta partially or completely peeling away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery (placental abruption), low birth weight, congenital disorders, and schizophrenia. New mothers also face significant health risks postpartum, with 52% of pregnancy-related deaths occurring between delivery and one year postpartum.

Medicaid is key to improving maternal health and addressing disparities in outcomes. As the largest health care program in the country, Medicaid provides an essential safety net for women and mothers in the U.S. The program covers 17% of non-elderly women nationwide, including 41% of low-income women, and 36% of single mothers, and nearly half of all births. Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage for new moms to one year after delivery has the potential to help a total of at least 200,000 low-income uninsured mothers gain health care coverage.

Many state Medicaid programs and Medicaid managed care organizations are committed to addressing disparities in maternity care and improving maternal health outcomes through innovative programs that offer additional support such as nutritional assistance, increased access to home visiting programs and case management services, and new models of care such as coverage of doula services and supports. While significant strides have been made, there is still much work to do.

The Modern Medicaid Alliance and our partners remain committed to working with Congress to improve maternal health and ensure high-quality, affordable coverage for pregnant and postpartum women.

“The role of Medicaid in addressing the United States’ ongoing maternal health crisis cannot be understated. Millions of women rely on Medicaid for essential maternal health services, including family planning, prenatal services, and childbirth,” said Amy Haddad, Chief Government Affairs Officer of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs. “With maternal mortality rates on the rise, continuing Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months postpartum is critical to improving maternal health outcomes; addressing both routine and unforeseen needs; and to reduce the disproportionate threat to maternal health faced by women with lower incomes.”

“For many pregnant women and mothers, Medicaid provides vital access to high-quality, affordable maternal health care,” said Linda Goler Blount, President, and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative. “Black mothers, in particular, face a unique set of challenges, suffering from higher rates of pregnancy-related complications and death. Bridging the gap and addressing health disparities requires urgent congressional action to continue Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 365 days postpartum.”

“Women have significant medical needs through the first year after delivery, including higher rates of maternal mortality than during pregnancy or childbirth and postpartum depression which can take months to both appear and resolve,” said Gloria N. Eldridge, PhD, Divisional Vice President, Health Policy of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC). “By allowing states to extend postpartum coverage to 365 days, Congress can significantly improve the health and well-being of both mothers and their children and reduce disparities in maternal health outcomes.”

“In an effort to ensure continuity of coverage and access to critical health care services across the perinatal period, the National Service Office for Nurse-Family Partnership and Child First supports the mandatory and permanent extension of Medicaid and CHIP postpartum coverage to one year after birth,” said Sarah McGee, Chief Policy & Government Affairs Officer. “This important policy change will improve maternal and child health, and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Nurse-Family Partnership and Child First look forward to continuing to partner with Congress and state Medicaid programs to increase access to the nursing and mental health services provided by these important and impactful programs.”

“This is an ongoing, unmitigated crisis that impacts babies and families across our country, and it has long-lasting impacts throughout all of our lives. We need to address maternal morbidity and mortality and make the potential of every baby a national priority,” said Johanna Lister, Director of Policy for HealthySteps, a program of ZERO TO THREE. “This means high-quality care and services throughout the pregnancy and during the transition period after childbirth when mothers are adjusting to new parenthood and infants are forming critical connections with their caregivers. When we support post-partum well-being, we give babies a strong foundation for a lifetime of healthy development, learning, and growth. healthy families give babies the best opportunity to thrive.”


The Modern Medicaid Alliance is a partnership between Americans who value Medicaid and leading advocacy organizations. Our mission is to educate policymakers and the public about the benefits of Medicaid to the American people in terms of cost savings, health outcomes, and social impact, and to highlight how Medicaid is innovating in the delivery of care – especially for America’s most vulnerable citizens – and accountability of the program. 

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