Health Report: SB 58 extends Medicaid coverage for post-partum moms

Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 3:20 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Governor Mike Dunleavy recently signed senate bill 58 which will extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from 60 days to 12 months.

“I want to see Alaska be the best state in the country for families. This legislation helps ensure that Alaskan mothers and their babies will have access to essential medical care,” said Governor Dunleavy. He then extended thanks to the legislature for the “overwhelming support of this pro-family bill.”

As stated in a press release from the Office of the Governor, many women who experience postpartum depression typically don’t see symptoms manifest until well after the 60-day mark. Additionally, from 2015 to 2020, nearly 16% of women in Alaska who experienced perinatal depression or anxiety said obstacles such as challenges with insurance coverage and costs resulted in not being able to access treatments or support.

Among other conditions new mothers could face, there is one that poses a significant threat, heart disease.

Heart disease is the number one killer among new moms, according to the American Heart Association. Jamie Morgan, Senior Region Lead for State Government Relations, says, “About 700 pregnant and new moms die each year in the United States and that’s about two every day [.] Heart disease contributes to about one in three of [those] deaths.”

Speaking on senate bill 58, Morgan added, “We know that this bill will save lives and have a significant impact.”

In fact, Alaska native women are two to three more times likely to die from any pregnancy-related cause compared to white women. The American Heart Association explains the disparities could be due to, in part, differences in insurance coverage and accessibility to care, but also structural racism and socioeconomic factors could also be a contributer to these statistics.

Department of Health Commissioner, Heidi Hedberg says, “By extending Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year after birth, this crucial legislation gives our newest Alaskans an improved opportunity for a healthy start to life, during a critical period of human growth. This legislation allows us to remove one burden for new parents, while setting a better path for Alaskans’ future.”