What the Medicaid expansion means for new moms in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — New moms on Medicaid assistance will now have their healthcare costs covered for a longer period of time.

Starting this month, Virginia Medicaid will expand from 60 days to 12 months of postpartum health coverage for enrollees.

Sara Cariano, a health policy analyst at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, says the goal is to reduce maternal mortality rates in Virginia.

“Many women still die of pregnancy-related complications after their coverage ends, so we want women to be supported, keep them in care, and not force them to switch health plans two months after they have had a baby,” Cariano said.

This change applies to those enrolled in FAMIS Moms and Medicaid for Pregnant Women.

“Medicaid and FAMIS cover a third of births in Virginia, so that’s really going to impact a lot of women, and a lot of those women before, after 60 days, didn’t have access to care because they didn’t have cover,” Cariano said.

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Sara Cariano of the Virginia Poverty Law Center

According to the Virginia Department of Health, more than half of pregnancy-related deaths occur 43 days or more after pregnancy ends. In Virginia, the death rate for black mothers is more than twice the death rate for white mothers.

Kenda Sutton-El, executive director of Birth in Color RVA, works one-on-one with high-risk mothers.

“There’s always the stigma, especially when it comes to black women, as soon as we walk in, our skin condition already puts us at higher risk than others,” Sutton-El said. “One of the biggest concerns is that providers aren’t listening to what they have to say, or that they don’t feel comfortable telling their providers.”

Non-English speakers and immigrants are also at higher risk for pregnancy-related health problems.

“The most vulnerable people at all levels who have the greatest disparities are also the most likely not to know about the coverage or to be a little nervous about signing up because they don’t want to. whether it interferes with immigration status or immigration procedures,” Cariano said.

Dr Tashima Lambert Giles

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Dr Tashima Lambert Giles

Dr. Tashima Lambert Giles, a VCU Health board-certified OB/GYN, sees the impact of a lack of coverage firsthand.

“The truth is that a lot of our patients who are on Medicaid have a lower socio-economic status. They have a lot more reason to feel a lot more stressed, unsupported. They may have to go back to work a lot sooner than other people. moms,” said Dr. Lambert Giles. “It could cause them to lose that access and lose the ability to recognize if there’s something medically related going on, and not see a doctor, as they go on with a normal life.”

The expansion covers everything from regular health checkups to substance abuse disorders to postpartum depression care.

Dr. Lambert Giles said in her practice she has seen more new mothers struggling with heart disease, untreated underlying conditions and mental health issues.

“I think expanding Medicaid allows us to address all of these things, but more importantly, to get preventative drugs to patients so that they are overall healthy, and we can achieve a healthier community,” she said.

Children born to Medicaid/FAMIS enrollees are entitled to 12 months of continuous coverage. Benefit criteria and details can be found here.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email [email protected] to send a tip.

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