Measure advances to expand mental health coverage for mothers on Medicaid

Medicaid Managed Care Organizations applaud House Health & Welfare Committee vote

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A state House committee approved Thursday legislation expanding mental health coverage, drawing praise from child welfare advocates and other groups.

“Access to quality health care and coverage postpartum is not only critical to the health and well-being of the new mother, but also that of their newborn. We applaud the House Health and Family Services Committee for recognizing that imperative today with passage of House Bill 174, sponsored by Representative McKenzie Cantrelland House Health and Family Services Committee Chair Kim Moser,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Postpartum is a vulnerable time for new mothers and their baby, and this is especially true for women on Medicaid, many of whom are at risk of losing their health insurance coverage just 60 days after the end of pregnancy. The reality is that half of maternal deaths are post-pregnancy and are overwhelmingly preventable. And in Kentucky, the rate of Black mothers dying within one year of giving birth is more than twice the rate for White mothers. HB 174 seeks to extend Medicaid eligibility for new mothers for up to 12 months postpartum so they can have continuous, uninterrupted access to health care.

The measure now goes to the full House. State budget negotiators also will need to secure Medicaid funds to ensure new moms can access continuous, uninterrupted health care up to 12 months postpartum.

The Kentucky Association of Health Plans (KAHP), the trade association representing all carriers offering health coverage in Kentucky, also applauded the vote on the legislation sponsored by Rep. McKenzie Cantrell of Louisville, Chairwoman Kim Moser of Independence, Rep. Al Gentry of Louisville, Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson and Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington that adds Medicaid behavioral health coverage for eligible moms for a postpartum period of 12 months.

“Since the transition to Medicaid Managed Care over a decade ago, Kentucky has made strides in improving prenatal and postpartum healthcare access,”  said Tom Stephens, Executive Director of Kentucky Association of Health Plans. “Kentucky’s Medicaid Managed Care Organizations applaud Rep. Cantrell for working to build on this progress, especially in the area of mental health where conditions like postpartum depression present serious challenges for new mothers and families.”

Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), Kentucky has the option to extend postpartum coverage under Medicaid to 12 months beginning on April 1, 2022.

“Postpartum depression affects a significant portion of new mothers, and when left untreated is one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related death. Kentucky’s Medicaid Managed Care Organizations are well-positioned to ramp up outreach and connect moms to supports services that can change and save lives,” continued Stephens.

Cantrell said although the bill is only seven words, it will have a big impact for mothers across the state.

“The only part (of the bill) being amended is extending that coverage so mothers can stay healthy with their newborns for up to 12 months,” Cantrell added.

Moser shared with the committee that Kentucky’s high maternal mortality rate is what inspired she and Cantrell to propose the bill.

“Kentucky is one of the highest, and there are a lot of factors, but this will really help a population who often sees health care disparities get the care that they need,” Moser said.

Christina Libby, the health outreach navigator for the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, also testified in favor of HB 174. She shared with the committee that she struggled with several medical issues, including postpartum depression, after the birth of her second child, and she was grateful to have health insurance.

Libby said that HB 174 would also have a positive impact on Kentucky’s children.

“The effect on the children raised by healthy and functioning mothers would have a ripple effect throughout the Commonwealth,” she said.

The measure cleared the House Health and Family Services Committee unanimously. HB 174 will now go before the full House for consideration.

Categories: Local News, News, State News

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