Pregnant women on Medicaid won’t need to reapply for coverage starting next month

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — A gap in coverage will soon be filled for expecting and new moms in Virginia who are having trouble getting healthcare.

Last year, Medicaid qualifications were expanded for adult men and women between 19 and 64, who are not eligible for Medicare. Income requirements vary by family size. 

Pregnant women currently on Medicaid won’t have to reapply for coverage starting next month, they’ll be automatically enrolled if they qualify under the new eligibility requirements. Before Medicaid expansion, expecting moms would receive coverage until 60 days after their baby is born. Now, they won’t be dropped. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Medical Assistance Services, which oversees Medicaid, says new moms will just have to change the category they are in for coverage. 

This comes as the Commonwealth is working towards reducing racial disparity in maternal mortality by 2025. According to the Virginia Dept. of Health, twice as many black women are dying in childbirth or after having a baby compared to white women. 

“The majority of women who actually die from pregnancy related illnesses and issues are dying after those 60 days,” Dr. Jennifer Lee, the director of DMAS, said. “So many women who are at risk are covered by Medicaid.” 

DMAS is also working with other state agencies, like the health department, to collect real-time data about why women are dying in childbirth or postpartum. 

“We’ve come to find out is that it is not easy to actually track that data,” she explained. “We need more comprehensive data to understand this problem.”

Gov. Ralph Northam has also called for health leaders to explore ways to increase training on implicit bias for healthcare providers.

Not having physicians listen to pregnancy problems is a worry for many of the families that go to Urban Baby Beginnings in Richmond. 

“Moms tell me that their concerns are not being taken seriously. And as a result of that the provision of care tends to be less,” Stephanie Spencer, the director of Urban Baby Beginnings, said. “Mothers feel as if they present again that they’re going to be judged.”

Spencer also saw a lot of families struggle to continue care before Medicaid’s eligibility requirements expanded, because they had trouble finding doctors who would take them without insurance or they couldn’t afford to go.

More than 306,000 adults have enrolled in Medicaid who couldn’t before. 

According to a report released this month by the health department’s Maternal Mortality Review Team, between 1999 and 2012, 427 women with a total of 848 chronic diseases died during or after a pregnancy. About 44 percent of the chronic diseases were endocrine disorders, including obesity, 36 percent were chronic mental illness and about 30 percent were chronic substance abuse.  

Spencer says the coverage also helps keep women and their growing families healthy, even before there’s a pregnancy.

“It’s really important that mom’s have access to care in the pre-pregnancy period or the preconception period so that they can treat those health related issues that may impact themselves or their baby’s health long term,” Spencer explained. 

DMAS officials say there are plans in the works to have meetings across the Commonwealth where moms on Medicaid can share where they think there are gaps in coverage. An official meeting schedule has yet to be released.

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