Governor Mills Announces Extension of MaineCare Health Coverage for New Mothers
Augusta, ME (STL.News) Governor Janet Mills announced today that her Administration will extend postpartum Medicaid health care coverage from 60 days after a woman gives birth to 12 months. The Federal government today approved the request from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to extend the coverage beginning August 1, 2022.
The move is intended to improve maternal health and ensure that women do not lose access to postpartum care, which includes recovery from childbirth, follow-up on pregnancy complications, management of chronic health conditions, access to family planning, and help for mental health conditions. It is estimated that an additional 2,000 women per year in Maine will have access to health care coverage for a full year after giving birth because of the move. In 2020, 39 percent of all births in Maine were covered by health care through MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program.
The American Rescue Plan provided states with the option to extend postpartum coverage from the Federally-required minimum of 60 days to 12 months via a State Plan Amendment. At the State level, LD 1781 – legislation sponsored by Senator Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth) – authorized the Mills Administration to seek that extension of coverage from the Federal government.
“The need for pregnancy-related health care doesn’t end sixty days after a woman gives birth,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This move will ensure that women have access to postpartum care for a full year, which will improve their health and that of the children – setting them both up to succeed in the future. This is another example of how my Administration is committed to supporting women’s reproductive health in Maine.”
“Extending support for mothers not only promotes healthy outcomes but saves taxpayer dollars by supporting preventive care during this critical year,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “This builds on Maine’s successful policy of providing one year of continuous coverage to children on MaineCare.”
“Improving access to high-quality postpartum care is one of the most important investments we can make in the health of our families,” said U.S. Senator Angus King and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree. “Governor Mills’ decision to expand Medicaid postpartum health care coverage to 12 months after birth will give thousands of mothers the support they deserve at a vulnerable time and make a huge difference in Maine’s rural and low-income communities. We’re glad the Governor continues to put American Rescue Plan funds to good use and look forward to seeing how this expanded care will improve the health of Maine families.”
“A full year of postpartum coverage through MaineCare will keep Mainers healthy during a medically vulnerable time for themselves and their newborns,” said Senator Anne Carney of Cumberland County. “I’m so pleased as the bill sponsor to see Maine join the nation-wide effort to reduce our high rate of maternal mortality.”
“I am thrilled to see this coverage be approved by the Federal government,” said Representative Michele Meyer of Eliot, House Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Ensuring new mothers have access to health care while they are healing and beginning to raise their children will improve their health and, importantly, the health of their new baby.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, experts agree that postpartum care is an ongoing process that typically involves multiple visits and follow-up care that extends past the arbitrary 60-day coverage limit.
Extending health care coverage will provide stability of care important for those who experience pregnancy complications or have chronic conditions or mental health issues. The move comes at a time when, according to Kaiser, studies show that suicidality among pregnant and postpartum women has risen over the past decade, with at least one in ten women experiencing perinatal depression. Moreover, other studies indicate higher rates of postpartum depression but worse access to treatment among communities of color and low-income women.
Maine joins Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Virginia, New Jersey, Illinois, California, New Mexico, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia in extending Medicaid and CHIP coverage from 60 days to 12 months postpartum.