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Health

Gov. Abbott Signs Bill Extending Medicaid Coverage For New Texas Mothers

The Texas State Capitol building on Jan. 11, 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
The Texas Legislature passed a bill this session that increases coverage for new mothers on Medicaid from 60 days to six months.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill this week that expands health care for new moms on Medicaid.

Women who've just given birth in Texas currently can receive health care services through Medicaid only for up to 60 days after they have the baby. Starting Sept. 1, new mothers will get a full six months of coverage before being removed from the program.

The Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force and Department of State Health Services have been combing through maternal death data for years to come up with solutions on how to reduce deaths in Texas. Several years ago, they recommended Medicaid coverage be extended up to a year after a woman gives birth.

According to their report from July 2016, extending coverage for up to a year would “improve continuity of care, promote safe birth spacing, and reduce maternal morbidity,” which includes near-death experiences or serious health complications that arise during a pregnancy.

Members of the state health agency and task force also told lawmakers it could save the state money.

"Increasing access to care throughout the first postpartum year would improve interconception health while also reducing cost in the Medicaid program by decreasing the rate of unintended pregnancy," the task force wrote, "and by preventing, detecting and managing chronic conditions and other risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension, smoking, and mental and behavioral health issues, that increase risk for maternal morbidity and mortality and lead to costly adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes including severe maternal morbidity, preterm birth, and low birth weight."

After years of failed efforts to extend coverage, lawmakers did manage to pass a version of the task force's recommendation this year. But House Bill 133 falls short of what was advised; instead of one year of postpartum coverage, lawmakers agreed to extend the coverage to only up to six months.

Adriana Kohler, a policy director at Texans Care for Children, said in a statement that HB 133 is a critical bill.

“Six months of health coverage after childbirth is an important step forward to support moms during this critical time for their health and their baby's development, so we urge state and federal leaders to work together to quickly implement the legislation,” she said after Abbott signed it into law. “We also encourage state leaders to build on this effort and develop a plan to ensure that moms have health coverage before their pregnancy [and] after the six months of postpartum coverage expires."

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