With this change, Texas can save the lives of new moms

Apr 7, 2021

Women who lose Medicaid health coverage soon after giving birth are at high risk of bad outcomes

Childbirth is a joyous time for a mother, but also can lead to medical crises, postpartum depression, and premature death, including suicide.

At a time when new mothers are so vulnerable, access to medical resources and counseling that could save lives should be available. However, if a new mother is poor, several post-childbirth risk factors sharply increase, and a key safety net is available for only the first two months after delivery. Medicaid health insurance currently provides coverage for new mothers for just 60 days despite the fact that medical experts say new mothers are at risk of suffering psychological and medical setbacks related to childbirth for at least a year.

It is heartwarming that womens’ health issues have caught the attention of some lawmakers. With slight differences, SB 141 by Sen. Nathan Johnson, SB 1187 by Sen. Carol Alvarado, HB 107 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, HB 133 by Rep. Toni Rose, HB 146 by Rep. Shawn Thierry, and HB 98 by Rep. Lina Ortega all extended Medicaid health insurance for new mothers from 60 days to one year after pregnancy.

We urge lawmakers to extend benefits for a year and not put more women at risk. Roughly, 89% of pregnancy-related deaths reviewed since 2013 were preventable and 31% occurred 43 days to one year after the end of pregnancy, according to the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee. The committee also determined that Black and Hispanic new mothers were at elevated risks of bad outcomes.

In 2018, for example, the severe maternal morbidity rate for Black women in Texas was 299.4 cases per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations, significantly higher than the overall state rate of 182.3, as were the statistics for Hispanic mothers. The severe maternal morbidity rate includes “unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short-term or long-term consequences to a woman’s health,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Texas ranks an embarrassing last, at 25.5% in the rate of uninsured women of childbearing age, according to a Georgetown University study, so expanding Medicaid coverage to 12 months would be a step forward. Women who lose health coverage soon after giving birth are likely to stop taking medication or obtain support for postpartum depression and treatable maladies such as infection, hemorrhage, preeclampsia, eclampsia, and cardiovascular and coronary conditions.

Texas lawmakers have known that this is a major problem but have come up short in previous sessions. Two years ago, the state House approved legislation to provide 12 months of Medicaid coverage to mothers following childbirth only to watch that bipartisan bill fail when the state Senate didn’t take action before the deadline to consider legislation.

Texas temporarily paused removing mothers from Medicaid coverage during the COVID-19 emergency, undoubtedly saving lives. Lawmakers must deliver a bill that extends benefits for one year, and the governor should sign it.

This article originally appeared in the Dallas Morning News at https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/2021/03/17/with-this-change-texas-can-save-the-lives-of-new-moms/.