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A House Plan Would Extend Medicaid Coverage Following Childbirth

A baby is sitting on a woman's lap. The baby's feet and the woman's hand are in the foreground.
Jenna Norman on Unsplash
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Lawmakers are pushing to give women more access to healthcare following childbirth.

Florida is in the midst of what some call a “maternal mortality crisis” Officials say mothers are dying preventable deaths, often months after childbirth. Florida lawmakers are hoping to fight that by extending the time mothers can receive health coverage through Medicaid from the current 2-months, to a year.

Andrea Friall is the Chief Medical Officer and an OBGYN at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. She says in Florida 50% of all pregnancy-related deaths occur after mothers are discharged from giving birth.

Friall says many of those deaths could have been prevented. They often stem from treatable concerns like diabetes, hypertension, overdose or issues related to mental health.
It’s a problem Rep. Kamia Brown (D-Ocoee) has been actively pushing to change.

“As we previously heard, this problem impacts minority communities disproportionately,” Brown says. “Disparities in maternal health equality results in mothers of color in Florida being 3-to-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white mothers.”

Brown says the majority of those mothers are also relying on Medicaid for their healthcare.

Right now in Florida, Medicaid typically only offers care to eligible mothers for 60 days after they give birth. Health experts say that’s not long enough to provide mothers with the care they need for many of the conditions behind pregnancy-related deaths. Brown has a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage for those mothers—allowing them to keep the benefit for a full year.

“By investing greater resources in the budget for this program we are really providing life-saving support for new mothers in need,” Brown says. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 60% of maternal deaths here in the U.S. are actually preventable and to be perfectly clear, extending this coverage will save lives.”

Brown’s bill has not yet been heard in committee. But the idea is moving forward this session. That’s because House Speaker Chris Spowls has announced the plan to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers will be part of the House’s healthcare spending plan.

Sprowls is careful to clarify the move is not part of a Medicaid expansion—something state Democrats have been pushing for years. He says an expansion means more groups of people would become eligible, but points out that’s not the case with new mothers.
The move is likely to have a bumpy road ahead. To get in the state’s final spending plan, the Senate will need to agree. And that’s a discussion Sprowls admitted in a press conference this week, he had not had yet.

The push comes as Florida faces a significant budget shortfall and leaders in the Senate have suggested cuts to the Medicaid program might be needed to make ends meet.