Erie, PA - Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead and leadership and staff from Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Women’s Behavioral Health at Saint Vincent Hospital today celebrated the extension of Medicaid postpartum coverage for mothers and birthing people eligible because of their pregnancy.
Effective April 1, 2022, under the American Rescue Plan Act and for states that opted in, the Medicaid postpartum coverage period was extended 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 – provided coverage for people eligible due to their pregnancy for only 60 days after giving birth.
“Giving birth has tangible physical, mental, and emotional effects that last longer than 60 days. By making sure that moms and people who have given birth have the care they need, we are setting them, their babies, and their families on a path toward good health and well-being,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “Investments in maternal-child health are an investment in the quality of life and individual potential of parents, children, and families. During a time where reproductive health care is threatened, these potentially life-saving changes that this Medicaid postpartum coverage extension will have for parents and children across the commonwealth represent the work necessary to value life and help people live healthy and well, as they deserve.”
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 a birthing person’s and their babies’ lives.
AHN Saint Vincent launched the region’s first Intensive Outpatient Program for women suffering from pregnancy-related depression, a condition that affects up to 20 percent of new mothers. The new program brings mothers to AHN Saint Vincent three times a week for three-hour sessions of therapy and group discussions, as well as activities to strengthen the mother-infant relationship including perinatal yoga, infant massage, infant sign language, and child development. Women also receive one-on-one individual therapy once a week and meet with a psychiatrist once every other week.
“Extending the amount of time women have to get the postpartum care they need, find their balance and chart a healthy start to life for their child is truly a significant investment in Pennsylvania families,” said Dr. Sarah Homitsky, Medical Director for AHN Women’s Behavioral Health.
Since taking office, Governor Tom Wolf has prioritized expanding access to health care and supportive services for parents through pregnancy and the postpartum period and giving 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 that occurred in Pennsylvania from 2013-2018 and were determined to be pregnancy-associated, which is defined as deaths that occurred while pregnant or within one year of the end of a pregnancy. 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.
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.
For more information on the AHN Women’s Behavioral Health program at Saint Vincent, call 814-452-6558.
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