Georgia Senate votes to extend maternal Medicaid from six to 12 months

Georgia's state Capitol (AJC file/Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia's state Capitol (AJC file/Brant Sanderlin)

The Georgia Senate on Monday unanimously approved 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.

Senate Democratic Leader Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain said health care is one topic lawmakers should be able to “speak about in one voice.”

“By extending Medicaid access to new mothers to a full year with Senate Bill 338, we would be taking a major stride toward reducing our abysmal maternal mortality rate in Georgia,” Butler said. “It provides an umbrella of protection for mothers and babies at an extremely vulnerable time, and it is a proven solution that can be immediately implemented to improve outcomes.”

In his proposed fiscal 2023 budget, 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.

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.