This editorial first appeared in The Dallas Morning News. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
The months after childbirth are a particularly vulnerable period for women who too often suffer from depression, thoughts of suicide and other physical and psychological issues that put at risk their health and the health of the newborn.
Women who lose health coverage soon after giving birth are likely to stop taking medication or quit obtaining support for postpartum depression and treatable maladies such as infection, hemorrhage, preeclampsia, eclampsia and cardiovascular and coronary conditions.
In the final days of this legislative session, the Senate and House signed off on a bill to extend coverage from 60 days to six months after childbirth.
For years, medical experts had advised the state to increase coverage to one year after birth, and the bill introduced at the start of the session had advocated for 12 months of coverage. While lawmakers stopped short of that recommendation, the expansion to six months is a significant improvement. In a prior session, bipartisan legislation to provide 12 months of Medicaid coverage to mothers following childbirth passed the House but failed when the Senate didn’t take action before the deadline to consider legislation.
We hope this change begins to reduce severe maternal morbidity, which includes unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short-term or long-term consequences to a woman’s health. The state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee calculates that about 89% of pregnancy-related deaths reviewed since 2013 were preventable and 31% occurred 43 days to one year after the end of pregnancy. In the absence of insurance coverage, Black and Hispanic mothers are more likely to confront serious and sometimes fatal health issues related to childbirth than the general population.
Texas has to better address a wide range of persistent health care problems, such as a sky-high percentage of uninsured adults, as well as access to medical resources and counseling. Extending coverage for new moms is a good decision that will provide a longer, much-needed safety net during a vulnerable time.