HHS expands Medicaid postpartum coverage for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth

Xavier Becerra
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President Biden’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has approved expanded Medicaid postpartum coverage for mothers in Illinois, making it the first state to provide continuous coverage for up to a year after a birth. 

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on Monday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved eligibility for new mothers to be covered beyond 60 days after giving birth. The approval went into effect on Monday at the start of Black Maternal Health Week and will stay in place until Dec. 31, 2025. 

“This makes Illinois the first state to provide continuous coverage of full Medicaid benefits for mothers, regardless of change in circumstance during the entire first year after delivery,” Becerra said during a press briefing. “That’s a big deal. I say that because my wife was an OBGYN [and] said to me, ‘That’s a big deal.’”

The expansion is expected to allow about 2,500 women with incomes up to 208 percent of the federal poverty level to receive steady Medicaid coverage for up to a year after giving birth. 

Becerra also unveiled that $12 million will be made available over four years for the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies (RMOMS) program. 

Those who earn RMOMS funding will work toward models and strategies to improve access to maternal health care in rural areas and will be required to focus on populations that “have historically suffered from poorer health outcomes, health disparities and other inequities.” Three winners will get up to $1 million every year for up to four years. 

“This is a first step, and these are two very important announcements that will significantly impact the health of mothers and expectant mothers in Illinois and in our rural communities as well,” Becerra said. 

The secretary pointed to statistics that 52 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. take place up to one year postpartum. In Illinois, the percentage reaches 80 percent. More than half of pregnant women on Medicaid had a coverage gap in the first six months after giving birth, according to HHS.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) joined Becerra during the press conference and celebrated the moves to reduce maternal mortality. 

“No one should die from preventable causes, and I will continue to work with my colleagues and Secretary Becerra to improve our health system so mothers can feel safe and supported,” Duckworth said at the briefing. 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published last week found that the maternal death rate rose from 2018 to 2019. It also determined that Black women had 44 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019 — 2.5 times more than non-Hispanic white women and 3.5 times more than Hispanic women. 

Tags birth Department of Health and Human Services HHS Illinois Joe Biden Lauren Underwood maternal death rate maternal mortality maternal mortality rate Pregnancy pregnant Robin Kelly Tammy Duckworth Xavier Becerra
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