Legislature passes maternal mortality plan

Bill clears way for eventual extension of Medicaid for low-income moms

Members of the Georgia House voted unanimously on Wednesday to send maternal mortality legislation to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.

Legislators voted 114 to 0 to pass House Bill 1114, which would eventually extend Medicaid for low-income mothers from two to six months postpartum.

The legislation seeks to beef up care for the state’s poorest women during a critical time when conditions like postpartum depression and high blood pressure can be fatal when left untreated.

But even if the bill is signed by the governor, the Legislature will need to find enough funding to pay for it in the budget. That’s far from guaranteed given the coronavirus’ economic toll on state coffers. A compromise fiscal 2021 blueprint is currently under negotiation.

AJC In-Depth: Medicaid limit, OBGYN shortage in Georgia hamper efforts to limit maternal mortality rate

In a speech on the House floor, sponsor Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, thanked lawmakers for “beginning to take care of the needs of our most vulnerable mothers who are at risk of losing their lives post-partum.”

Georgia’s maternal mortality rate has long ranked among the bottom of U.S. states, and a bipartisan state study committee recently found that 60% of the state’s maternal deaths between 2012 and 2014 were preventable.

House Bill 1114 is the Legislature’s most substantive action yet to cut down on such fatalities, which disproportionately impact women of color. Black women in Georgia are three to four times more likely to die when they become mothers than white women, according to the study committee.

The measure, which the Senate passed Tuesday, would also expand lactation care for mothers on Medicaid.

Read more: Georgia Senate backs maternal mortality bill