JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Under a new state law, new moms in Missouri will have their Medicaid coverage extended from 60 days to one year after giving birth. 

In January during his annual State of the State address, Gov. Mike Parson said Missouri ranks 44th in the nation for its abnormally high maternal mortality rate. He went on to say this is “embarrassing and absolutely unacceptable.”

More than half of the country has already extended Medicaid coverage for new moms and the bipartisan legislation approved by the General Assembly this year is not only expected to save lives but cover thousands of women who would otherwise go uninsured two months after giving birth. 

“This will help women be able to get the care that they need, to be a healthy mom and to have healthy babies,” Director of the Family Support Division at the Department of Social Services Kim Evans said. “A lot of times, moms may develop postpartum depression or may have some complications develop after the 60 days from when the baby was born.”

Before the governor signed the bill into law earlier this month, low-income pregnant women in Missouri who qualified for Medicaid, only received postpartum coverage for 60 days. By extending the coverage for up to one year after the baby is born, the legislation is estimated to help more than 4,200 new moms a year. 

Senate Bill 45 was co-sponsored by Sen. Elaine Gannon, R-De-Soto, and Sen. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis. 

Due to a provision in the federal American Rescue Plan Act in 2021, each state is allowed to expand Medicaid coverage to women up to 12 months. The state recently started Medicaid eligibility renewals again after the federal government prohibited states from removing people from Medicaid for three years. 

“With the postpartum, it is the same coverage they [new moms] would receive when they are pregnant,” Evans said. “If they are needing to see a therapist, if they need to see an OBGYN or if they need to go to their medical doctor, those services are available to them.”

Evans said any body that is born to a mother who is on Medicaid automatically receives newborn coverage for up to 12 months. After that, MO HealthNet reviews to see if the family has an active case the child can join or if there is another Medicaid category the baby falls into. 

According to a report published by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) in 2022, an average of 61 Missourians die each year while pregnant or within one year of giving birth. The report shows the rate of mothers on Medicaid dying was more than eight times higher than those with private health insurance. DHSS also found Black women in Missouri are three times more likely to die within a year of pregnancy than white women. 

Overall, nearly 75% of the deaths were determined to be preventable with about half of those deaths occurring between 45 days and one year postpartum. The three top causes of death in postpartum women are mental health, cardiovascular disease and injury. 

“Once she receives that approval under that poverty level, then that remains under the postpartum period,” Evans said. “She just rolls from the Medicaid for Pregnant Women program and once the baby is born, automatically rolls into the postpartum without any verification required.”

Evans said once the 12 months of postpartum coverage expires, if no longer eligible for Medicaid, DSS will help moms find coverage in the federal marketplace. 

Since the governor has signed the bill, the Department of Social Services (DSS) is reviewing to see which Medicaid patients recently gave birth or if currently pregnant, are eligible for the postpartum program. 

“This allows for women to receive these additional months of coverage which also allows for the agency and the department and the state as a whole to look at other initiatives to support women in their postpartum period and to support the families,” Evans said. 

Evans said, under the law, if you’re a new mom on Medicaid who gave birth back in May, you will still receive extended postpartum care for up to 12 months. 

More than 30 states have already been approved by CMS to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms after giving birth.