Extension Increases Access to Critical Postpartum Care
Pittsburgh, PA - Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead, Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson, and Healthy Start Pittsburgh today celebrated Pennsylvania’s extension of postpartum coverage period for mothers and birthing people eligible for Medicaid because of their pregnancy.
“We all deserve the security of knowing that we have health care coverage so that we can go to our doctor or other health care provider for routine visits and screenings. This is especially true for parents and their babies both during pregnancy and in those crucial, delicate early weeks and months,” said DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead. “This Medicaid extension is a life-saving investment in postpartum care. It will allow thousands of birthing parents to continue to access physical and behavioral health care necessary to keep themselves healthy and their families on a path to good health and well-being.”
Effective April 1, 2022, under the American Rescue Plan Act, Pennsylvania extended the Medicaid postpartum coverage period for mothers and birthing people who are eligible for the program because of their pregnancy to one year following the birth of a baby. Previously, Medicaid – or Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania – provides coverage for people eligible due to their pregnancy ended 60 days after giving birth. Extending postpartum coverage for those covered through Medicaid will provide continuity in health care by allowing birthing parents to maintain relationships with and access to care providers undisrupted through a critical period in their lives and their babies’ lives.
The mission of Healthy Start, Inc. is to improve maternal and child health and to reduce poor birth outcomes and infant mortality. The organization uses a multidisciplinary team approach to provide an array of direct and coordinating services to pregnant and postpartum women, birthing people and their partners by employing outreach and recruitment, case management, interconceptional care, health education, depression screening and referral.
“Most of the adults we serve are covered through Medicaid insurance, and it is really hard to promote and support health behaviors in the absence of proper access to care. This is a significant step toward eliminating barriers to health and health equity,” said Jada Shirriel, CEO, Healthy Start, Inc.
Since taking office, Governor Tom Wolf has prioritized expanding access to health care and supportive services that support parents through pregnancy and the postpartum period and gives children a strong, healthy start that can lead to continued health, well-being, and positive outcomes throughout their lives.
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that maternal mortality rates rose between 2019 and 2020, and that Black women are almost three times as likely as white women to die after giving birth.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health released a report in 2020 analyzing 457 deaths determined to be pregnancy-associated, which is defined as deaths that occurred while pregnant or within one year of the end of a pregnancy, that occurred in Pennsylvania from 2013-2018. According to the report, pregnancy-associated deaths in Pennsylvania grew by more than 20 percent within that time span, and Pennsylvania also followed national trends of higher maternal mortality among Black women and women whose births were covered through Medicaid. Extending Medicaid postpartum care is also a recommendation in the 2021 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Report.
“As an OB/GYN physician, maternal and child health are very close to my heart,” Pennsylvania’s Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “Pennsylvania, like the rest of the country, can do a better job protecting and improving the health of mothers, and thus their families and their whole communities. By extending Medicaid coverage, we are eliminating a barrier for those accessing care.”
Medicaid covers 4 in 10 births nationally and about 3 in 10 in Pennsylvania. Medicaid was the primary payer in Pennsylvania in about 53 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths and nearly 60 percent of all pregnancy-associated deaths came between six weeks and one year after giving birth, largely outside of the previous 60-day limitation on coverage. By extending the length of postpartum coverage, Pennsylvania is seeking to improve the quality and outcomes of care and potentially save lives.
More information on the postpartum Medicaid extension and DHS’ maternal-child health programs available across Pennsylvania is available online here.
To learn more and apply for Medical Assistance and other assistance programs in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/compass.
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