The Importance of Investing in Maternal-Child Health Highlighted

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

HARRISBURG – The Wolf Administration​, members of the Women’s Health Caucus, Marianne Fray, CEO of the Maternity Care Coalition, and Gerria Coffee, owner of Genesis Birth Services, highlighted Pennsylvania’s extension of postpartum coverage for people eligible for Medicaid due to their pregnancy.

“Maternal mortality rates in this country and Pennsylvania have continued to rise year over year with Black women and people of color bearing a tragically higher burden of pregnancy-related complications and deaths. We have a responsibility and obligation to do more to reverse this tragic and preventable loss of life,” said Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Snead. “If we espouse the value of human life, then we need to do everything we can to value and take care of moms, babies, and parents, no matter their race, ethnicity, income, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ZIP code. Access to high-quality, essential health care is the bare minimum that we should be offering to our fellow Pennsylvanians. Opting into the postpartum Medicaid extension is an important step, and we must continue to invest in health programs that can improve care and save lives.”

Among the Wolf Administration’s recent investments in maternal-child care, effective April 1, under the American Rescue Plan Act, 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 end of a pregnancy. Previously, people eligible for Medicaid due to their pregnancy received coverage for only 60 days after giving birth.

“As an OB/GYN physician, maternal health is very close to my heart,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson. “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.”

Since taking office, Gov. Tom Wolf has prioritized reproductive rights, including 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.

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. By extending the length of postpartum coverage, Pennsylvania is seeking to improve the quality and outcomes of care and potentially save 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. According to a Pennsylvania Department of Health report released in 2020, Pennsylvania followed national trends of higher maternal mortality among Black women and women whose births were covered through Medicaid. Extending Medicaid postpartum care is a recommendation in the 2021 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Report.

“Pennsylvania opting to extend Medicaid from 60 days to one year postpartum effective April 1 was a crucial step to help parents and children across the commonwealth,” said Representative Morgan Cephas. “The extension is especially important for vulnerable populations, including Black parents, who statistics show suffer disproportionately from maternal mortality and related issues. I applaud the administration for taking this step and for maintaining their commitment to protecting reproductive health rights for Pennsylvanians, and I look forward to continued collaboration so that we see more advancements in maternal health until no inequities exist and all parents and children in Pennsylvania have the support they need to thrive.”

“Postpartum Medicaid expansion is a massive step in the right direction and an action that will save lives,” said Senator Judy Schwank. “There is still a lot of work to do before Pennsylvania is anywhere close to where it should be in terms of improving maternal health and reducing postpartum mortality. I’m hopeful we can build on the progress we’ve made with the Opt-In PA campaign and finally begin treating postpartum care with the urgency it requires.” 

“By making healthcare accessible to parents throughout that first year of taking care of an infant, we are positioning parents to be successful and in good health during a crucial time as a family,” said Senator Amanda Cappelletti. “Pennsylvania families deserve access for everyone to receive the care they need. This is one more step to close the gaps and ensure coverage for every Pennsylvanian, which is essential for our public health.”

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.