Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Special Advisor to the Secretary Sara Goulet and leadership and staff from St. Luke’s Womens and Babies Pavillion at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus Tuesday celebrated Pennsylvania’s extension of Medicaid postpartum coverage for mothers and birthing people eligible because of their pregnancy.
Effective April 1, 2022, under the American Rescue Plan Act, the Medicaid postpartum coverage period was extended for mothers and birthing people who are eligible for the program because of their pregnancy to one year following the birth of a baby. Previously, Medicaid – or Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania – provided coverage for people eligible due to their pregnancy for only 60 days after giving birth.
“This Medicaid extension is a life-saving investment in postpartum care. It will allow thousands of birthing parents to continue to access physical and behavioral health care necessary to keep themselves healthy and their families on a path to good health and well-being,” said Sara Goulet, DHS Special Advisor to the Secretary. “During a time where reproductive health care is threatened, the potentially life-saving changes that this Medicaid postpartum coverage extension will have for parents and children across the commonwealth represent the work necessary to value life and help people live healthy and well, as they deserve. Opting into the postpartum Medicaid extension is an important step, and we must continue to invest in health programs that can improve care and save lives.”
Extending postpartum coverage for those covered through Medicaid will provide continuity in health care by allowing birthing parents to maintain relationships with and access to care providers undisrupted through a critical period in their and their babies’ lives.
St. Luke’s opened its $75 million Women & Babies Pavilion in January 2020 as part of the Network’s ongoing efforts to expand local access to the full range of family care. St. Luke’s, a member of the Children’s Hospital Association, opened the Lehigh Valley’s first and only free-standing facility dedicated entirely to kids – the new Pediatric Specialty Center in Center Valley.
“Here at St. Luke’s, we are dedicated to the patients we care for and to improving health outcomes for mothers and babies,” said Dr. Elizabeth Dierking, Vice Chair and Residency Program Director of St. Luke’s OB/GYN Department. “We have always taken an active role in advocating for changes that would benefit our mothers and babies as well as women across the state.
Expanding Medicaid services for an entire year allows women and children from all economic backgrounds to get the care they need to realize the dream of a healthier and happier future. … This expansion allows us to offer care to patients that is more accessible and affordable so that they don’t have to choose between healthcare and other needs.”
Since taking office, Governor Tom Wolf has prioritized expanding access to health care and supportive services for parents through pregnancy and the postpartum period and giving children a strong, healthy start that can lead to continued health, well-being, and positive outcomes throughout their lives.
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that maternal mortality rates rose between 2019 and 2020, and that Black women are almost three times as likely as white women to die after giving birth.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health released a report in 2020 analyzing 457 deaths that occurred in Pennsylvania from 2013-2018 and were determined to be pregnancy-associated, which is defined as deaths that occurred while pregnant or within one year of the end of a pregnancy. According to the report, pregnancy-associated deaths in Pennsylvania grew by more than 20 percent within that time span, and Pennsylvania also followed national trends of higher maternal mortality among Black women and women whose births were covered through Medicaid. Extending Medicaid postpartum care is also a recommendation in the 2021 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Report.
Medicaid covers 4 in 10 births nationally and about 3 in 10 in Pennsylvania. Medicaid was the primary payer in Pennsylvania in about 53 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths and nearly 60 percent of all pregnancy-associated deaths came between six weeks and one year after giving birth, largely outside of the previous 60-day limitation on coverage. By extending the length of postpartum coverage, Pennsylvania is seeking to improve the quality and outcomes of care and potentially save lives.
More information on the postpartum Medicaid extension, and DHS’ maternal-child health programs available across Pennsylvania is available online here.
To learn more and apply for Medical Assistance and other assistance programs in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/compass.