June 17 – Medicaid-insured mothers with newborns in New Mexico will receive an additional 10 months of coverage after birth, the federal and state governments announced Thursday.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham told a Biden administration press conference that New Mexico has joined 13 states in expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers to 12 months. The duration was previously two months after birth.
Lujan Grisham said it was “an incredible honor” for New Mexico to be involved. Coverage has already started. Lujan Grisham said the government had a “moral obligation” to invest in poor, rural and minority families, many of whom do not have good access to healthcare.
Native American, Black and Hispanic mothers are at a higher risk of suffering health problems after birth, the governor said at the press conference.
Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States is “facing a maternal mortality crisis.” Harris said the United States compares poorly in this respect to other developed countries.
“This is just the beginning. We will fight until every state expands Medicaid coverage,” she said. Information in a federal government press release estimated that 5,000 New Mexico residents would benefit from the change.
Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Social Services, wrote in an email that the United States is the only industrialized country with a rising maternal mortality rate. She said it was increasing
26 percent between 2000 and 2014. McGinnis Porter said nationally, Black and Native American women are 3.3 and
2.5 times more likely, respectively, to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
Babies are covered by a separate state provision that already insures them for 12 months from the month they are born, McGinnis Porter said.
New Mexico as a whole suffers from a much higher maternal mortality rate of 21.5 per 100,000 than the national average of 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. And the state said in a press release this spring that New Mexico ranks first in the nation for babies born with Medicaid coverage, at 72%.
Additionally, pregnancy-related deaths in New Mexico are 4.6 times higher for women covered by Medicaid than for those with private insurance, the Department of Human Services said. Nearly a third of maternal deaths occur within the first year after a birth, the department added.
Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, called the decision a “game changer” for many mothers in New Mexico.
“It provides guaranteed essential services to mothers during a crucial time” in their lives, Wallin said in an interview. “Maternal mortality is a major problem across the country.”
Wallin said many mothers continue to recover physically beyond two months after birth. Additionally, she says, postpartum depression and anxiety are under-recognized issues that affect 1 in 4 mothers. These emotional crises can impact child development as well as the health of the mother, she said. Mental health services are included in the coverage, she said.
In addition to New Mexico, Minnesota and Maine, 11 other states and Washington, DC have agreed to provide the additional coverage.
White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice agreed with Harris that maternal health is in crisis. “And we really put our money where our mouth is,” Rice said. She said the postpartum deaths of many mothers can be prevented with strong health care.
“And because they’re preventable, we’re obligated to prevent them,” she said.