Thursday, September 29, 2022

Medicaid Expansion Aims to Help Virginia Mothers, Newborns

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 18 other states and Washington, D.C., have implemented similar Medicaid expansions, which require the approval of the federal government. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — New Virginia mothers now are eligible for up to a year of Medicaid support. It’s a major expansion of the program, and advocates hope it will help reduce maternal mortality rates.

The new version of Virginia’s Medicaid program has been in the works for years, and was first approved by state lawmakers in 2020.

Previously, most new mothers were only able to draw Medicaid benefits for two months after the birth of their child. But Sara Cariano, senior health policy analyst for the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said many postpartum issues take more than sixty days to appear.

“This really is going to enhance the care the mom can get, and make sure that — if she does need any kind of physical help, behavioral health, even dental health — she doesn’t have interrupted care,” said Cariano. “She can continue on with the same provider she had through her pregnancy.”

According to a 2020 report by Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, more than 60% of maternal deaths among women with a chronic health issue happen after the 43 day mark. The maternal mortality rate for Black Virginia mothers is more than double the rate of their white counterparts.

Folks can register for Medicaid online at commonhelp.virginia.gov.

Cariano said folks who already are enrolled in Medicaid and become pregnant are automatically enrolled in the 12 month pregnancy support program, and new mothers who lapsed out of the sixty day version of the program, but still fall within the one-year range, can reapply for benefits.

She said Enroll Virginia, a coalition of community organizations, can help folks navigate the process.

“If someone has applied and is having an issue with an application, we also do a lot of case help,” said Cariano. “We do a lot of helping people navigate what can be a little bit of a complicated process for enrolling.”

So long as they meet income restrictions, all legally residing non-citizens in Virginia also are eligible for the program. Cariano said all mothers, regardless of immigration status, are eligible for coverage during the pregnancy and for up to sixty days after the birth of their child.

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