Pennsylvania is extending Medicaid coverage to mothers from 60 days postpartum to 12 months postpartum, starting April 2022.
Under the law, individual states can choose to opt into Medicaid extension benefits and must provide the full scope of benefits during pregnancy and up to 12 months postpartum. Comprehensive coverage includes prenatal care (doctor’s fees, ultrasounds, blood tests), labor and delivery and any other medically necessary care. The extension comes as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), also known as the COVID-19 stimulus package.
In total, 25 states have or are in the process of extending Medicaid benefits through ARPA, according to a tracker from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). So far, only three states—Illinois, Missouri and Georgia—received extended coverage approval. Illinois is the first state to extend Medicaid benefits and thus far, it is the only state that has no limits on the eligible population, coverage period (6 months v. 12 months postpartum), or benefits. Massachusetts and West Virginia are pending approval for extended Medicaid coverage. And several heavily populated states—including Texas, Florida and California—have enacted legislation within their state legislatures to apply for extended Medicaid coverage.
Medicaid covers about half of births nationally, with eligibility ranging from 138% to 380% of poverty across states, according to a recent report from the CDC. Pregnant women in Pennsylvania with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level are only covered by Medicaid for only 60 days postpartum.
“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,” Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead said in a statement. “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.”
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among 10 other developed countries, according to a recent report from the KFF. Furthermore, Black and Hispanic women are disproportionately impacted by the rising maternal mortality rates. A recent study from 2018 showed the rate of maternal mortality was two times higher among Black women, compared to white women.
“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,” the state’s Acting Physician General, Denise Johnson, MD, said in a statement.
The Medicaid expansion benefits are available until April 2027.