Bet you guys could use some good news about now, huh? In a reminder that government can do good things that make people’s lives measurably better, the US Department of Health and Human Services has announced that four new states will be extending postpartum Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits from the usual 60 days after someone gives birth to a full 12 months.
Oregon, California, Kentucky, and Florida will join seven other states in offering the longer benefits, which are expected to help out about 126,000 low-income families in the four new states. Another nine states and the District of Columbia are also in talks with HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about extending the benefit, too.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement,
The first year after giving birth is a critical period — and families deserve the peace of mind knowing they will be able to access the health care coverage they need, without interruption.
We like this thing where Joe Biden’s HHS is working with states to help people stay healthy and live better. It’s a lot nicer than when HHS emphasized kicking people off healthcare to convince them to stop being poor. Could we please not go back to that please?
The extended benefits are almost certain to save lives, too. As The 19th explains, that’s just math:
According to an HHS report, one in three pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after a person gives birth. About half of all births in the United States are covered by Medicaid. Without this kind of expansion, those same parents lose their health insurance coverage roughly two months after delivery of a child.
Once the additional jurisdictions get extended postpartum benefits in place, that means a full year of health benefits for a lot of Americans whose coverage would otherwise end 60 days after the mother gave birth. Again, this has real potential to save lives, since roughly a third of maternal deaths occur in people who were on Medicaid when they gave birth.
As we’ve discussed before, the US has an ongoing maternal mortality crisis because unlike civilized nations, healthcare isn’t considered a right here. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US has twice the rate of maternal mortality of other wealthy nations. That crisis is, like damn near everything else in the US, far worse for Black women, who are three times more likely than white women to die within a year of giving birth. Those racial disparities persist independent of education and income level, though Crom knows being poor certainly exacerbates them.
During Black Maternal Health Week, back in April, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement that her agency is committed to working with states to improve outcomes for parents who’ve had new babies, saying, “For too long, ingrained racism in our health care system has created devastating disparities in the care people receive and the health outcomes they can achieve. These disparities can be a matter of life and death.”
As of yet, southern states have not forbidden Ms. Brooks-LaSure from public schools.
In a world where all 50 states took the plunge and extended postpartum Medicaid and CHIP to a full 12 months, we’d be looking at 720,000 Americans who would benefit. The biggest gains would be for people who currently fall in the income gap between eligibility for Medicaid and qualifying for subsidized health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. (Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act would have ended that gap for everyone in that hole, but … well, this is a Nice Time post.)
Also, a bit more good news, which would be even better if more states expanded postpartum benefits: A study of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion found that states that put the expansion into place saw reduced racial disparities in health outcomes for Black Americans.
Gosh, more people having good health and staying alive to raise their children? It sounds like some kind of socialist utopia, doesn’t it?
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