By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News
Alabama’s General Fund budget for the fiscal year 2023 will allow postpartum Medicaid coverage to be extended to one year after birth. Currently, low income mothers are only covered by the program for 60 days.
Multiple health care advocates within the Cover Alabama Coalition, which lobbies for Medicaid expansion, asked lawmakers for the postpartum extension and praised state leaders for the $8.5 million allocation. The American Rescue Plan Act also incentivized states to make this extension by offering amendments to current state Medicaid plans.
“Extending Medicaid coverage from the current 60 days to one year after childbirth will save and improve lives across Alabama,” Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise, said in a written statement. “It will help reduce long-standing racial disparities in health care that have plagued our state for generations. It also will promote more stable families, vibrant communities and a healthier future.”
Hyden applauded lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey for approving the extension and urged the Alabama Medicaid Agency to implement the change as soon as possible.
Cover Alabama said it will continue to work with the governor’s office to ensure the 12-month coverage is sustainable and permanent.
The latest report from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that maternal deaths increased from 36 in 2016 to 44 in 2017. Alabamians ranked “poor pregnancy outcomes” as their third greatest concern in the latest Community Health Assessment.
The department’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee reported that 70% of the 2016 deaths were preventable.
“Mental health and substance use disorders were identified as key contributors in almost half of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths in the state of Alabama,” said Holly Caraway McCorckle, executive director of the Alabama Council for Behavioral Healthcare. “In addition, postpartum depression and anxiety disorders affect one in seven mothers nationwide.
Many other organizations spoke out about the positive effect that the expansion will have across the state.
“Physicians statewide believe that this is a positive step in the right direction for Alabama in reversing the dangerous trend in maternal deaths and continuing access to care for mothers after pregnancy,” Dr. Julia Boothe, President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, said in the same statement.
The association says about 30,000 Alabama mothers have their deliveries covered by Medicaid each year, and this expansion will be a step toward better health outcomes for them and their babies.