HARRISBURG – The Wolf Administration on Thursday joined leadership from the legislative Women’s Health Caucus, the Maternity Care Coalition and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network to announce Pennsylvania’s intent to extend the postpartum coverage period for mothers eligible for Medicaid because of their pregnancy.
This historic investment in the health and well-being of new mothers and their babies 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.
“Access to health care is essential to well-being. Ending pregnancy-related coverage for mothers covered through Medicaid just 60 days after birth risks mothers going without necessary and potentially life-saving care,” said Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead.
“The first year, post-birth, is a critical time for the entire family’s health and well-being and this expansion will help mothers maintain relationships with care providers undisrupted.
“As our nation seeks to reverse rising trends in maternal mortality, this coverage can help us save lives and is a necessary investment in maternal-child health across Pennsylvania.”
Federal law requires Medicaid – or Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania – to extend eligibility for pregnant women with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level for 60 days following the birth of a baby.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act, states are able to implement a new state plan option beginning April 1, 2022, to expand the Medicaid postpartum coverage period for mothers to one year following the birth of a baby.
“The expansion of postpartum Medical Assistance coverage will help improve long-term health outcomes for entire families and will help decrease the number of pregnancy-related deaths in Pennsylvania,” Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said.
“Maternal mortality is devastating for families and communities worldwide, which is why maternal and child health is a priority for the state.
“This expansion is not only essential, but is critical to helping ensure mothers have access to important health care and is another step toward creating a healthy Pennsylvania for all.”
According to an analysis of 2018 data, the United States’ has the highest rate of maternal mortality among 10 similar nations.
Maternal mortality data for 2019 released earlier this year shows that the trend is growing – up to 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births from 17.4 per 100,000 in 2018, and maternal mortality is significantly more common among Black women as compared to White and Latinx women.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health released a report last year 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 from 2013 to 2018.
Pennsylvania also followed national trends of higher maternal mortality among Black women and women whose births were covered through Medicaid.
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 60-day limitation on coverage.
Expanding postpartum coverage for mothers covered through Medical Assistance will provide continuity in health care through a critical period in the mother’s life and a foundational time for the health and well-being of their children and furthers the Wolf Administration’s work to promote good health and strong starts for mothers and children across Pennsylvania.
Since taking office, Gov. Tom Wolf has expanded access to home visiting services that support parents and young children through significant investments in home visiting program and an inclusion of home visiting services in Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance program.
This expansion will also support the work of Pennsylvania’s Perinatal Quality Collaborative, a cross-system public-private partnership that seeks to advance maternal-child health, increasing screenings for and follow-up services for postpartum depression, and leverage perinatal health providers to improve health and wellbeing of pregnant and postpartum mothers and their children.
“Maternity Care Coalition is thrilled Pennsylvania is pursuing the American Rescue Plan’s option to extend postpartum coverage,” said Marianne Fray, chief executive officer of the Maternity Care Coalition.
“This is a significant step forward for perinatal health equity in our Commonwealth and brings us one step closer to making Pennsylvania a place where parents can birth with dignity, parent with autonomy and raise babies who are healthy, growing and thriving.”
The postpartum expansion will be available to states to take effect in April 2022. A formal declaration of intent to expand the postpartum coverage period will be submitted to the federal government once guidance is issued to states from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
More information on DHS’ health equity and health innovation work, the postpartum Medicaid expansion, and 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.compass.state.pa.us.