Feb 23, 2024 - News

Gov. Sanders against extending postpartum Medicaid coverage

Republican Sen. John Boozman speaks while Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Rep. French Hill listen. Screenshot courtesy Sen. John Boozman's YouTube channel.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas) speaks as fellow GOP members Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and U.S. Rep. French Hill listen. Screenshot: Courtesy of Sen. John Boozman's YouTube channel.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders doesn't support expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Why it matters: Arkansas had the highest known rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. from 2018 to 2020, according to the CDC.

The overall number of deaths per 100,000 live births in the state increased from 12.2 to nearly 29 from 1999 to 2019, a JAMA study found.

The big picture: The country's maternal health crisis and loss of abortion rights in many states have spurred rapid uptake of a new extended-coverage option, even in conservative statehouses that have long resisted the much broader Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Axios' Maya Goldman writes.Idaho, Iowa and Wisconsin are remaining holdouts along with Arkansas.

Context: States are required to provide pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage for 60 days postpartum. While they've long had the option to seek federal approval for longer coverage windows, Congress in 2021 passed a law making it easier for states to extend postpartum eligibility to 12 months.

  • With one in three pregnancy-related deaths occurring six weeks to one year after giving birth, the policy is seen as a key strategy for efforts to reduce maternal mortality.

Driving the news: Sanders joined elected officials and medical professionals at a public roundtable about maternal health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Wednesday.

What they said: Part of the discussion focused on challenges preventing rural, mentally ill or addicted residents from seeking or receiving prenatal care.

  • Some of the barriers boil down to a public relations issue, a panelist said, pointing out that pregnant people who are addicted may be fearful to seek care before they go into labor.

"Effective prenatal care is respectful care," William Greenfield, an OB/GYN, stressed to the panel.

  • "It's a process of risk assessment to see where a patient falls on the spectrum in terms of what the risks are for the pregnancy. It's therapy and interventionā€¦ It's the opportunity to educate on what to expect and what to look for and how to advocate for yourself."

The bottom line: The panelists agreed the state needs to develop an efficient system of transferring pregnant/delivering patients from rural facilities to those equipped for deliveries.

  • Only 35 hospitals in Arkansas have labor-and-delivery units.

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