The Texas House of Representatives advanced a bill Thursday that would extend pregnancy Medicaid coverage to 12 months after giving birth.
House Bill 12, authored by state Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, was supported by hospitals like Parkland Health, mental health organizations and the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, which reviews and publishes reports about Texas maternal health.
“This comprehensive coverage will save lives and ensure children grow up with their mothers,” Rose said when reading the bill on the House floor.
House Speaker Dade Phelan identified HB 12 as a priority bill this legislative session. The bill needs to clear one more procedural vote before heading to the Texas Senate.
Medicaid covers everything from prenatal visits and ultrasounds to prenatal vitamins for expecting parents. In January 2023, close to 500,000 Texans were enrolled in pregnancy Medicaid, according to data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Currently, Medicaid extends two months postpartum, which research shows contributes to poor health outcomes for parents and babies, like low birthweight, mental health conditions like depression, and higher rates of maternal mortality.
“These tragedies impact families and communities,” Rose said.
Diana Forester, the director of health policy for Texans Care for Children, spoke in favor of the bill during a House Health Care Reform Committee meeting in March. She said the public health emergency, which allowed people to be continuously enrolled in Medicaid since 2020, granted parents a longer window of coverage.
“The thing that keeps coming up is, ‘extended care has allowed me to take care of myself,’” she said of the parents she spoke with. “’It’s allowed me to get better, so that I can be there for my family and go back to work.’ That’s really what this legislation is about — it’s about allowing moms to take care of themselves so they can return to caring for their families.”
According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 32 states including Washington, D.C. have implemented a 12-month extension, including neighboring states Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Doug Curran, a family doctor and representative for the Texas Medical Association, said during the March committee meeting the bill “makes it easier for us to take care of patients.”
“In Texas, we’re not doing good,” he said. “It’s time for us to do better. It’s always time for us to do better.”
Gov. Greg Abbott did sign a six-month extension into law during the 2021 legislative session, but the application is still under review by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“Members of this committee supported HB 133 last session, so I don’t think I need to go through a long layout about how important this bill is,” Rose said in the March meeting. “Last session, the House supported 12 months, and so we know that the House will support 12 months again.”