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When states have a promising practice that may improve health outcomes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid may approve a requested waiver of current program practices to test the effects of a new approach. Such is the nature of the waiver approval announced by Health and Human Service (HHS) Secretary Beccera, granting the State of Illinois their request to expand maternity care coverage for Medicaid patients from a 60‐day post‐partum period to a full 12 months.

The approval, effective April 12, 2021 and authorized through December 31, 2025, is a significant expansion of maternity care coverage. The amendment strengthens Medicaid pregnancy care using provisions of the American Rescue plan to improve patient access to preventive care and post‐partum resources.

This much needed investment in maternal health care prioritizes rural care access as well as targeting health inequities in higher maternal mortality populations. By expanding continuity care through the first post‐partum year, the program expansion provides funds to monitor and treat new mothers with ongoing chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes as they also manage their child’s first year of health and development. Expanded coverage for behavioral health access and additional mental health care service needs are especially valuable in the first post‐partum year.

Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) covers nearly half of all pregnancy care in the U.S.

Access to quality prenatal and post‐partum follow up is critical for the health and safety of women of reproductive age and their newborns as well as the overall health and wellbeing of our nation. Addressing care needs in the 12-month post‐partum period is critical to establishing healthy families and is a promising approach to achieving significant improvement in our nation’s unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, where a third of maternal death occur in the first year following childbirth.

It is hoped that this innovative new program can show improvements in post‐partum outcomes and also go a long way in addressing health inequity. Today in the U.S., maternal mortality rates show that twice as many Black women die from pregnancy related causes as White women. Extending Medicaid benefits to offer 12 months of continuous coverage will enable Illinois to follow the health outcomes of nearly 2,500 low income women and help us better appreciate the impacts of reducing barriers to post‐partum care.

Exploring a new approach to achieve healthier mothers, babies and families is an important first step in reducing rural health care inequities and combatting maternal health care disparities. This waiver approval is a step in the right direction.

- Dr. Michelle Famula, MD and PPMM volunteer

This National Black Maternal Health Week, we’re proud to support @BlkMamasMatter and other Black-led reproductive justice organizations during National Black Maternal Health Week to promote maternal health, rights, and justice for Black mamas.

Learn more about the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and their work to advance maternal health, rights, and justice, and amplifying community-driven policy research and care solutions. #BMHW21

Visit blackmamasmatter.org

Tags: black maternal health week