Wisconsin policymakers have less than a month to adopt a new state budget. Advocates for extending postpartum health coverage through Medicaid hope it winds up in the final spending plan.
Through the American Rescue Plan, states have the option to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers for up to a year after they give birth. To receive matching federal funds, states have to create their own program for this benefit.
Dr. Jennifer Krupp, maternal-fetal medicine specialist at SSM Health, said the current 60-day coverage window puts too many new mothers at risk for serious medical complications – such as hypertension disorder.
“When we only see them for two months, because that’s all the coverage they have,” said Krupp, “we really can’t make sure all of their needs are being met to control their blood pressure.”
She said depression is another chronic problem that could affect outcomes for both the mother and child if left untreated.
That’s because the condition limits the mother to tend to her health needs, while impacting her bonding with her newborn.
The proposed Wisconsin extension has bipartisan support, but it’s unclear if it will be included in the Department of Human Services section of the budget.
Annmae Minichiello is a UW Health pharmacist and American Heart Association volunteer. She said the issue is near and dear to her, because she developed a rare form of heart failure after the birth of her daughter.
She said she was lucky to have health coverage, noting the lengthy follow-up that was needed to avoid a dire outcome.
“I had to have several echocardiograms for months and years – and annually still, even though this incident happened about six years ago,” said Minichiello. “So, if I didn’t have that follow-up, it could be very fatal.”
Her experience inspired her to speak up for women who need that extended coverage so that more lives can be saved.
Efforts such as this come amid recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing alarming trends when it comes to the nation’s maternal mortality rate. The rates have grown considerably higher for Black women.
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This story was written by Mike Moen, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.