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Medicaid extensions for new parents grow, but may run into limits

Medicaid Mothers Coverage Extension
John Raoux
Venessa Aiken holds her son Jahzir Robinson, 5 weeks old, outside their home Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, in Orlando. States around the country are making it easier for newborn moms to keep Medicaid in the year after childbirth, a crucial time when depression and other health problems can develop.

Many patients enroll in government-funded Medicaid health insurance when they become pregnant, because qualifying income levels are higher than for those who aren’t pregnant.

Many states, including Florida, are making it easier for parents of newborns to keep Medicaid in the year after childbirth, but tight government budgets and low reimbursement may ultimately limit this push and make it hard to find doctors willing to take it.

The extensions cover a crucial time when depression and other health problems can develop for people who give birth.

In 2021, Florida lawmakers approved the proposal to extend from 60 days to 12 months the time that Medicaid will cover postpartum care. That's among 23 states and Washington, D.C., that have done the same through August. Another 10 states have plans to join them.

Federal law requires states to provide pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage through 60 days after birth. However, the American Rescue Plan Act allows states to extend care for 12 months postpartum.

The extensions kick in after the federal government’s COVID-19 public health emergency ends because states are required to keep patients enrolled during the emergency. It currently will extend at least into early next year.

Jennie Joseph, a midwife and the founder of Commonsense Childbirth, a Winter Garden nonprofit that operates a birth center and clinic, says low Medicaid reimbursement rates and payment hassles are already challenging for care providers.

And Venessa Aiken, who gave birth at Joseph’s center in July, says she has had a hard time getting a call back from her primary care doctor’s office is worried about getting a referral to a specialist.

“A lot of things have changed since the pandemic,” said Aiken, of Orlando. “A lot of places no longer take Medicaid, or if they do, you have to wait like two months before you can be seen.”

Click here to read more of this article from the Associated Press.