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The S.C. Department of Health and Human Services has extended Medicaid coverage for mothers who have just had a child from 60 days to 12 months postpartum. 

The extension could affect approximately 5,000 women per year, according to the agency. 

The coverage extension to 12 months will include benefits for women who qualify for Medicaid because they are pregnant, including all medical and mental health services. The news comes after the passing of a 2021 budget proviso introduced by Rep. Bill Herbkersman for funds to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage. 

“As the health care coverage payor for 60 percent of the births in South Carolina, SCDHHS is well-positioned to use this investment in the traditional Medicaid population to help improve the state’s maternal mortality rate,” the agency said in a recent press release. 

The latest data from the S.C. Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review shows 14 percent of pregnancy-related deaths occurred between 43 days to one year after giving birth, but a majority occurred within a month after labor.

According to the report, nearly 70 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths were deemed preventable.

Chief of quality for DHHS, Jordan Desai, told The Post and Courier one in six Medicaid patients who are new moms have a mental health condition or chronic medical condition. 

“They’re not just dealing with obstetrics and gynecology issues,” Desai said. 

In fact, Amber Pendergraph, a lead doula for Spartanburg nonprofit BirthMatters, said close to 40 percent of her patients experience postpartum complications, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and mental health issues. 

“A lot goes on in the fourth trimester,” Pendergraph said, referring to the emotional and physical shifts mothers endure after giving birth. “Women need continued care, just in case anything arises after the pregnancy.”

  • By Zharia Jeffries zjeffries@postandcourier.com

Continued care is especially important for Black women, who accounted for the largest portion of pregnancy-related deaths in the state between 2016 and 2020, at 43 percent.

White mothers accounted for 27 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the same period. The remainder of pregnancy-related death cases are other women of other races, or the race is unknown.

Significant loss of blood was the most common cause of death among Black women, while cardiomyopathy and infection were the leading causes of White maternal deaths. 

Dr. Dawn Bingham, local gynecologist and legislative chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that historically, extended Medicaid coverage is associated with improved access to health care and with reports of less delay when seeking care.

It is also associated with reduced maternal mortality rates. 

“A lot to things that can happen postpartum go unevaluated because women don’t have ongoing insurance, unless they have this continuation in Medicaid coverage,” Bingham said.

“We know how much this will help women avoid adverse health outcomes,” Bingham added. 

Medicaid members can call 888-549-0820 for more information related to this policy change. 

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This content was originally published here.

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