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Department of Human Services Discusses Importance of Investing in Maternal-Child Health

by Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Jun 20, 2022
Mother and baby

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead and leadership and staff from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Thursday highlighted Pennsylvania’s extension of postpartum coverage for people eligible for Medicaid due to their pregnancy.

“There is a critical connection between infant health, maternal health and the health of a family. All are dependent on the quality and accessibility of healthcare in their community and the policies within the state they live,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “At DHS, access to high-quality, essential health care is the bare minimum that we should be offering to our fellow Pennsylvanians. 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.”

Among the Wolf Administration’s recent investments in maternal-child care, effective April 1, 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 end of a pregnancy. Previously, people eligible for Medicaid due to their pregnancy received coverage for only 60 days after giving birth.

“Maternal health is an reliable predictor of both a mother and child’s future health, and thus access to essential healthcare during pregnancy makes an impact over both of their lifetimes,” said Tyra Bryant-Stephens, M.D., senior director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Health Equity and Medical Director of its Community Asthma Prevention Program. “The postpartum extension is a necessary step in achieving healthcare equity and prioritizing the health of all families.”

CHOP’s commitment to investing in maternal-child health extends to the work of its PolicyLab, a research center that has studied the prevalence of postpartum depression and disparities in access to perinatal health care in Pennsylvania. With significant evidence that untreated postpartum depression can affect the mental health and development of children, PolicyLab has been a strong proponent of extending Medicaid coverage in the postpartum period to increase access to preventive care, behavioral health services and substance use disorder treatment.

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. According to a Pennsylvania Department of Health report released in 2020, Pennsylvania followed national trends of higher maternal mortality among Black women and women whose births were covered through Medicaid. Extending Medicaid postpartum care is a recommendation in the 2021 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Report.

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.

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. 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.

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