Mike Moen, Producer
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Wisconsin lawmakers are in the midst of their fall session and they face renewed calls to approve a plan to help new mothers with limited resources maintain health coverage.
Over the past few years, the federal government has opened more pathways for states to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for up to 12 months. So far, 45 states and Washington, D.C. have either implemented the full extension or are in the process of doing so. Wisconsin is one of just two states seeking a more limited approach.
Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, is co-sponsor of a bill for the full 12 months of coverage, saying the current 90-day plan awaiting federal approval is helpful, but does not go far enough in providing consistency.
“What we’ve seen is with new moms when they have to switch over to find other coverage,” Ballweg observed. “They’re losing the care provider that they’ve had during their pregnancy.”
She pointed out they then must scramble for a new provider who has to get caught up on any chronic health conditions they are facing. Health experts said it contributes to racial disparities in the nation’s maternal mortality rate. The bill has cleared the state Senate with bipartisan support, and its sponsors are hopeful about its chances in the Assembly. However, some skeptics worry about higher eligibility thresholds.
Supporters said a full extension can help to reduce overall health care costs down the road by establishing better outcomes for new moms and their babies.
Annmae Minichiello, clinical pharmacist for UW Health, said the time to wait is over with research emerging about higher cardiovascular risks for pregnant women.
“Routine follow-up doctor’s visits, blood pressure management,” Minichiello outlined. “All those things could really capture a lot of patients who would fall under the radar.”
Minichiello, also a volunteer with the American Heart Association, added she knows the importance of coverage after developing a rare form of heart failure following the birth of her daughter. In research published this year, the Heart Association noted women who have high blood pressure prior to pregnancy may be twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Disclosure: The American Heart Association of Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.