Currently, low-income pregnant women can receive Medicaid coverage (Medicaid for Pregnant Women) throughout their pregnancy and for two months after they give birth. In March 2020, due to the declared public health emergency (PHE) of COVID-19, this coverage was frozen for the duration of the PHE. As of March 31, 2023, the PHE associated with COVID-19 will end, meaning that these women will systematically be removed from Medicaid, and that coverage for pregnant women will return to just two months postpartum.
During the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed a bill extending such coverage for Texas women from two to six months postpartum. This extension is for good reason – according to the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee (MMMRC) 2022 report, pregnancy-related deaths are reported and occuring in Texas up to a year postpartum, with 27% of these deaths occurring after the six-week postpartum period. Ninety percent of these pregnancy-related deaths in Texas were potentially preventable. The MMMRC recommended Texas to extend postpartum health coverage for women who qualify for Medicaid up to a year postpartum in order to promote better health for mothers and avoid preventable and tragic deaths.
Despite the Legislature increasing the window of coverage, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to approve the waiver application submitted by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) enabling Texas to fully implement the law. CMS has not made it clear why our state’s application was denied. But between the inability to fully implement last session’s law and the ending of Medicaid coverage under the PHE, now is the time for Texas to once again attempt to extend the window of Medicaid coverage for pregnant and postpartum women to a year after they give birth.
Texas Right to Life is supportive of these efforts to extend the window of health insurance coverage for postpartum women. This does not expand who qualifies for Medicaid in Texas; rather, it would only extend the length of time to those women who already receive health coverage. This longer period of coverage will help to combat the disturbing trend of maternal mortality and morbidity in Texas. This change would also provide long-term benefits by treating women’s pregnancy-related health problems while they are preventable and before they progress into worse issues requiring emergency room attention.
This legislative session, Texas Right to Life is committed to building a Pro-Life Texas where women and children are protected both before and after birth. We want Texas to be a state where women and their families can truly flourish. Providing health insurance coverage for women twelve months postpartum instead of only two will help make our state a more life-affirming place, where mothers can more safely give birth and children have a healthy mother to love and provide for them.