Press Release: Statement on Maternal Health Care Coverage and Mortality in Pennsylvania

“The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any developed country in the world. While this data point is surprising to many, there is now an opportunity for both the nation and Pennsylvania to improve, should our state’s Department of Human Services opt to do so.

“In the recently enacted American Rescue Plan, Congress included a short but critical section of language providing states the option to extend postpartum coverage for new mothers enrolled in Medicaid from the current period of 60 days to 12 months. Should Pennsylvania take this needed step, it will provide certainty for moms in our state, as it would begin when the Public Health Emergency extended by the Biden Administration through the end of 2021 lapses. This federal declaration is currently providing coverage for 12 months, but once it ends, countless women stand to have the rug pulled out from under them and lose their health insurance and access to coverage.

“How big of an impact would this have? In 2018, Medicaid births accounted for approximately 35% of ALL births in Pennsylvania.

“When coverage ends 60 days after the birth of a baby, moms in our state miss out on critical access to care ranging from receiving a maternal depression and anxiety screen to other services that can lower maternal mortality rates. Between 2013 and 2018, 58% of maternal deaths in Pennsylvania occurred between six weeks to one year after babies were born – the period after their coverage ends.

“Even more unsettling are the deep racial inequities apparent in the data, including Black women being at three times greater risk for pregnancy-related deaths than white women in Pennsylvania.

“The Department of Human Services and Governor Wolf must provide for 12 months of coverage in Medicaid for mothers after the birth of a baby to improve health outcomes and address racial disparities. Maternal depression, a possible pulmonary embolism or complications from a heart condition don’t just disappear 60 days after giving birth.

“Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is working with stakeholder partners across the state because we know moms need to be healthy for babies and kids to be healthy. It is up to Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services and Governor Wolf to exercise the option and reduce inequities in maternal health care coverage and access.”