State panel wants to extend Medicaid for eligible new moms

A bipartisan panel examining Georgia’s high maternal death rate is recommending that state lawmakers extend the amount of time low-income mothers are eligible for Medicaid coverage.

It’s one of 19 recommendations contained in a report released this week by the state House study committee on maternal mortality. But the recommendations, some of which would cost millions, could face an uphill battle winning full approval from lawmakers as the state faces budget cuts.

The committee was created last year to analyze Georgia’s maternal death rate, which is among the highest of any state in the U.S. The report says that the maternal death rate in Georgia is higher among African American women and in rural populations.

Women in Georgia that are eligible for Medicaid benefits during pregnancy generally lose those benefits two months after giving birth. But the committee’s report says that the timing leaves coverage gaps and “does not cover all the needs of a pregnant woman postpartum.” The committee recommends that lawmakers extend Medicaid coverage to one year after a birth to allow for continued access to health care services.

Estimates vary, but such an expansion could cost the state between $17 and $70 million, news outlets report. That could be a tall order this year, as Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has asked state agencies to trim their budgets due to a downturn in state revenue.

Other recommendations in the report include that lawmakers pass legislation mandating a postmortem exam for any maternal death and encouraging the Department of Public Health to offer more prenatal and postpartum care in county health departments.

The recommendations were endorsed by the group Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, news outlets report. “This list of recommendations from the Committee further supports the critical need to keep that funding in place given the current budget climate and Governor’s calls for cuts,” the group said.