Medicaid plays a critical role as an essential safety net for pregnant women, mothers, and their babies in the United States, covering about 4 in 10 births. The program covers a range of services for reproductive-age women, including family planning, prenatal services, childbirth, and postpartum care.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among high-income countries, with women of color accounting for a disproportionate number of those deaths. While the federal government has recently taken steps to improve maternal health and address disparities in health outcomes, there remains much more to be done to address the maternal health crisis and enduring health equity gaps.
Research indicates that new mothers face significant health risks through one year postpartum. One-in-eight mothers experience symptoms of postpartum depression, and research has found that among individuals with opioid use disorder who recently gave birth, the risk of overdose is highest 7-12 months postpartum. Overall, 52% of pregnancy-related deaths occur between delivery and one year postpartum.
One of the most impactful ways policymakers could improve the health and well-being of mothers and their children is by permanently extending Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) maternal health coverage to 12 months postpartum.
Historically, states have been required to provide pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage through 60 days postpartum, and in 2021, Congress gave states the option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months.
26 states and the District of Columbia have now expanded Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum, and seven states currently have plans in place to implement a 12-month extension. As a result, an estimated 418,000 Americans have access to this essential care, and projections show that a total of 720,000 people across the country would be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP coverage if all states opted in. However, the new extension is only available to states for five years, reiterating that it is imperative for policymakers to permanently authorize extended postpartum coverage in order to fully realize the policy’s benefits.
For pregnant women and new mothers, as well as their babies, the extension of postpartum coverage ensures continuity of care during one of the most critical and vulnerable times of their lives and provides their children with a strong foundation for a healthy future.
The Modern Medicaid Alliance is committed to advocating for high-quality and affordable maternal health care and services for American women, including continuing Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months postpartum.
For more information, check out our Medicaid & Maternal Health Toolkit.