Expansion of postpartum Medicaid from 6 to 12 months heads to governor’s desk

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The Georgia House voted unanimously this week to give final approval to legislation that would double the amount of time eligible new mothers can receive Medicaid.

Senate Bill 338 would extend the amount of time low-income Georgia mothers can receive benefits under Medicaid, the public health program that provides care to the poor and disabled, from six months to one year after the birth of a child. The move comes two years after lawmakers extended the benefits from two to six months. The Senate unanimously passed SB 338 in February.

“We are still having a problem with maternal mortality, and many of the illnesses are not found in that first six months period,” House Health and Human Services Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, said while presenting the bill on the floor Monday, the final day of the legislative session.

The expansion comes as Georgia attempts to curb its maternal mortality rate, which has consistently ranked among the worst in the nation. Mortality rates are particularly dismal for Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die than white women when they become mothers in Georgia.

In his fiscal 2023 budget, also approved Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp set aside $28.2 million in new spending for Medicaid to expand the program for postpartum mothers. In 2020, the Legislature allocated $20 million to extend maternal Medicaid benefits from two months to six after the birth of a child.

Democrats, who have pushed the state for years to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults in Georgia, supported the bill but said it should do more.

“Access to health care is lifesaving, and I’m glad that the state has recognized that it’s lifesaving for those who have just given birth,” said state Rep. Renitta Shannon, a Decatur Democrat. “What I would ask is that we would choose to give access for health care for all low-income Georgians who need it because it shouldn’t be the case that the state is only primarily interested in saving your life if you’ve just given birth.”

SB 338 now heads to Kemp for his signature.