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Why we need postpartum Medicaid expansion in Utah

Pregnancy related deaths have been on the rise in Utah for the last decade. In 2017, Utah experienced 17.3 deaths for every 100,000 live births in the state, many of which were preventable. We must improve our systems of care to reduce these preventable deaths and protect families. Currently in the state of Utah, women covered by Medicaid are only offered 60 days of postpartum care. However, according to Utah Perinatal Maternal Mortality Review, 65% of Utah’s pregnancy-related deaths happen between 43 and 365 days after birth. In order to ensure that all mothers have access to care during that critical time, postpartum Medicaid must be extended to one year. 

Many new mothers grapple with heart health issues surrounding pregnancy. For example, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States. CVD is the cause of more than a third of pregnancy related deaths. Cardiomyopathy, cerebrovascular disease, and other cardiovascular conditions all plague women during the postpartum period. These issues are only rising in prevalence, and mothers need access to care during this high risk time frame. 

This extension will also move us closer to ensuring health equity.  Black and American Indian/ Alaska Native women are 2-3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications compared to their white counterparts. Additionally, studies have documented disparities in health insurance coverage among low income, young, and minority populations. This health gap can be reduced for these marginalized populations as we increase access to quality care and coverage, especially during the vulnerable postpartum period. All mothers deserve quality care and coverage before, during, and after pregnancy.

Implementing systems that defend mothers and ensure equitable health outcomes needs to be a policy priority for Utahns. Healthy mothers are the foundation of healthy families. “The tragic irony is that moms are typically in charge of the health for everyone in their family, yet they are dying due to lack of the right kind of care at the moment they need it the most,” said Laxmi S. Mehta, M.D., FAHA. “Mothers deserve a fair chance to receive the best care to ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery and life following childbirth.” It is crucial to utilize the unique opportunity that the American Rescue Plan Act offers to extend postpartum Medicaid to a year, and provide Utah mothers access to lifesaving care.

 

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