Mississippi should extend health coverage for new mothers

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By Sen. David Blount

Jackson Advocate Guest Writer

One of the most important issues I am pushing is for the State of Mississippi to extend health care insurance coverage for new mothers.

This much needed coverage was first offered as part of the Affordable Care Act. Mississippi is one of twelve states that has refused to accept expanded health care coverage for its citizens under the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare.” Worse, Mississippi is one of three states that has refused to extend a mother’s Medicaid coverage from 60 days to one year after the birth of a child.

If we say we value life and families we need to recognize that Mississippi has one of the highest mortality rates in the nation for new mothers. We need to do something about it now.

The Senate passed a bill that I co-authored to extend coverage during the last legislative session. The bipartisan bill died in the House of Representatives.

First, in discussing this program, it’s important to understand the difference between Medicaid and Medicare. Medicare is a federal insurance program that provides health coverage to people age 65 and older, younger disabled people, and dialysis patients. Income is not an eligibility factor for Medicare. Medicare is paid for by the federal government. Because the state does not help pay for Medicare, the legislature is not involved in governing the program.

Medicaid is a jointly funded state and federal government program that provides health coverage for low income people. Almost all of the people covered by Medicaid are children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled. The federal government pays for about 78% of the cost and the state pays about 22%. When considering those covered under expansion of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 90% of the cost. Most of the 300,000 Mississippians who would benefit are working in low-paying or self-employed jobs that do not provide health insurance.

Medicaid pays for about 65% of all births in Mississippi. Federal law requires 60 days of coverage after birth. For a family of three, the income limit is about $22,000. However, in Mississippi, a mother becomes uninsured 60 days after birth. That’s because, in most cases, her income when she is no longer pregnant is too high to qualify for Medicaid and too low to buy private insurance. A married mother with a newborn child loses Medicaid coverage if she and her husband have an annual income above about $5,760. If she is not married the income limit is about $4,584 a year, or $382 a month. 

Postpartum health coverage is important to ensure a safe recovery from childbirth, follow up on pregnancy complications, manage chronic health conditions, provide access to family planning, and address mental health needs. At least one-third of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum period. We know that access to health care is essential for prevention, early detection, and treatment of some of the conditions that place women at higher risk for pregnancy-related complications, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic hypertension. Obviously, our state ranks high for these risk factors.

We can do better. Mississippi needs to extend coverage to these new mothers. I again will be sponsoring a bill to accomplish this in the upcoming legislative session. 

I want to thank the Kaiser Family Foundation for the research used in this article.

Thank you again for the opportunity to work for Hinds County in the State Senate. Please let me know if I can help you or your family. You can contact me by email (dblount@senate.ms.gov) or by calling my office at the Capitol (601-359-3221). I am also on Facebook and Twitter (@sendavidblount). 

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Mississippi should extend health coverage for new mothers

By Jackson Advocate News Service
July 25, 2022