This Mother’s Day, new North Carolina mothers are receiving an unexpected gift thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal relief bill that provides for an additional 10 months of postpartum healthcare for women who give birth. Currently, pregnant women covered by Medicaid get coverage for only 60 days after birth, even though most maternal deaths happen not in childbirth, but in the first year after birth.
The ARP relief package is opening up new opportunities for millions of people who’ve been struggling through the pandemic without healthcare, income and jobs to get the help they need to recover from COVID. In addition to extended unemployment benefits, more money for public education, free testing and vaccinations, and direct cash payments to 85% of households, the package also provides more funding for Medicaid services like coverage for the uninsured, expanded home and community-based care, and maternal health care.
This is all great news for new mothers who now receive Medicaid, but not for those who would also be eligible if our state had already expanded Medicaid. There is a proposed bill in the North Carolina Senate (SB 530) that would expand Medicaid coverage to new mothers, but only to new mothers, and only for one year. Limiting expanded eligibility just to them, and just for this limited period of time, rather than extending it permanently to the 500,000 North Carolinians who would benefit from a full expansion, would be misguided and wrong, especially in light of the generous financial incentives the ARP offers our state and others that have not yet expanded Medicaid.
We hear and read of talk at the General Assembly that Medicaid expansion could be a possibility this session. That would be great news for moms and their babies, particularly for low-income families and for women of color, who are more likely to have complications in pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts. The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the Western world. Read more