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General Fund budget will address Alabama’s maternal mortality crisis

Advocates say extended coverage is the start of a “healthy future” for Alabama mothers.

(STOCK)

Alabama’s new extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage should reduce maternal mortality and improve health for families across the state, advocates said Tuesday.

This policy change will result from the fiscal year 2023 General Fund budget that Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law April 7, which includes $8.5 million to bolster postpartum care and reduce maternal mortality rates.

These funds will extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers in Alabama, providing them access to life-saving health care for 12 months post-delivery. Mothers on Alabama Medicaid now lose their coverage and access to care just 60 days after childbirth.

Alabama has the nation’s third-worst maternal death rate. Each year, nearly 40 new mothers in the state die within one year after delivery. The toll on Black mothers is nearly three times that of white moms.

“Extending Medicaid coverage from the current 60 days to one year after childbirth will save and improve lives across Alabama,” said Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise. “It will help reduce long-standing racial disparities in health care that have plagued our state for generations. It also will promote more stable families, vibrant communities and a healthier future. This is an important step closer to the day when all Alabamians can get the health care they need to survive and thrive.”

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) gave states an incentive to increase Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months via a state plan amendment. Cover Alabama plans to continue to work with the governor’s administration to ensure this program is sustainable and permanent.

Research shows that outcomes improve when moms have access to high-quality, equitable and uninterrupted care. Extending the Medicaid postpartum coverage period is a big step to save lives and improve the health and well-being of families, communities and the entire state.

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“Most pregnancy-related health concerns can continue up to a year after birth, and 70 percent of the deaths reviewed by the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) were preventable,” said Dr. Julia Boothe, president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. “The MMRC also found that cardiovascular risk factors and mental health and substance abuse disorders were the leading underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths in Alabama. Moreover, women of color are disproportionately affected. As we strive to expand access to care in Alabama and in its most rural areas, this extension will provide women on Medicaid needed treatment and resources before, during and after pregnancies. For the 30,000 Alabamians whose deliveries are covered by Medicaid each year, extending coverage can be life-saving for not only the mother, but also the child. Physicians statewide believe that this is a positive step in the right direction for Alabama in reversing the dangerous trend in maternal deaths and continuing access to care for mothers after pregnancy.”

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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