JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A bipartisan group of Missouri lawmakers wants to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms and their babies.

Under the current law, low-income pregnant women who qualify for Medicaid can receive postpartum coverage for 60 days after giving birth. But because of the state’s high maternal mortality rate, members on both sides of the aisle want to increase coverage to 12 months.

“Each year, around 60 women die within one year of being pregnant,” Sen. Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) said. “The overwhelming majority of deaths, nearly 75% are preventable.”

It’s a plan to help thousands of Missouri women get the care they need after giving birth. Senate Bills 45 and 90 would extend insurance coverage for low-income mothers from two months to a year.

“This coverage is still not enacted because the Department of Social Services is waiting for Missouri to join the 28 other states who have already taken advantage of this opportunity,” Sen. Elaine Gannon (R-De Soto) said.

The legislation is sponsored by McCreery and Gannon. Last year, a similar bill fell short of the finish line.

“Helping women and children should be a priority we all share,” McCreery said. “I believe this is the year that the legislature can put people before politics to get this done to help families across our beautiful state.”

Due to a provision in the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, each state is allowed to expand Medicaid coverage to women up to 12 months. The urgency in Gannon’s bill comes as the state will soon be able to start Medicaid eligibility renewals again. Because of the pandemic, states were prohibited from removing people from Medicaid for three years. This could include women who were added when they were pregnant but no longer qualify and could lose coverage.

According to the state health department, the three top causes of death in postpartum women are mental health, cardiovascular disease, and injury. Missouri has the seventh-highest maternal mortality rate in the country.

“In this state, 63% of deaths were postpartum were greater than 60 days,” Dr. George Hubbell, an OBGYN and a representative of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last month. “Almost two-thirds of the maternal death that are pregnancy-related are occurring in the one year postpartum, not the immediate 60 days.”

The director of the state’s Medicaid program told committee members this legislation is a step in the right direction in addressing maternal mortality.

“What this would do is say we’re not going to make a distinction based on the coverage type; we’re going to extend that full-blown coverage for a period of 12 months,” director of Missouri HealthNet Todd Richardson said.

During his annual State of the State address, Gov. Mike Parson told lawmakers he is requesting more than $4 million for the Department of Health and Senior Services to implement a maternal mortality plan.

If passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, the legislation is estimated to help more than 4,600 women a year in Missouri.

The bill is now in the hands of the full Senate, which could debate it as soon as this week.