Expanded Medicaid Coverage For New Moms Will Mean Better Care For Chronic Conditions

High blood pressure, obesity and a decline in mental health are all conditions that play a role in Texas’ higher rate of maternal mortality. But six months on Medicaid could help.

By Joy DíazJuly 22, 2021 1:30 pm

Health problems some women experience during pregnancy don’t simply go away after giving birth. Conditions like high blood pressure require ongoing care, often lasting longer than six weeks. But six weeks after birth has been the cutoff when it comes to Texas Medicaid coverage for new moms.

That’s changing, however. Starting Sept. 1, a new Texas Medicaid provision will go into effect that gives new moms coverage for six months after birth. The Texas Department of State Health Services says, however, it could take a few weeks for moms to gain access to the increased coverage.

Dr. Alison Cahill specializes in maternal fetal medicine, and teaches at the Department of Women’s Health at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School. She says there’s no “switch” that gets flipped after pregnancy when it comes to certain health issues. And protecting new moms is especially important in Texas, where the maternal mortality rate is above the national average.

She says the expanded coverage will especially help new moms with three things:

High blood pressure: It is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, and it typically doesn’t resolve six weeks into the postpartum period. So, she says, the opportunity to care for women and follow them much more closely over a longer period of time can avoid some of the really dangerous complications that can arise when elevated blood pressure goes untreated.

Obesity: The national obesity epidemic hasn’t spared Texas mothers. Obesity is especially difficult to tackle during pregnancy, when a pregnant person naturally gains weight, and after, when pregnancy weight is hard to lose. Cahill says the expanded coverage offers medical providers a real opportunity to try and help support new moms to lose the so-called baby weight. She says that’s important because not losing it could set the stage for for long-term obesity.

Breastfeeding: Cahill says breastfeeding has “incredible” benefits for the long-term health of moms and their babies. But many moms don’t exclusively breastfeed for as long as she would recommend. Underserved moms are even less likely to breastfeed, or exclusively breastfeed, without using formula. She says the extra time covered by Medicaid means physicians can help support moms by connecting them with lactation consultants and continued monitoring.

“[It] would be a huge benefit because breastfeeding is actually quite hard to do,” Cahill said.

This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the expanded coverage goes into effect Sept.1 but might take a few weeks before new moms can take advantage of it.

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