On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, the House Medicaid Committee Chairman Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, spoke to reporters at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, after the committee passed a bill that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a year. The bill was passed with some opposition but received support from Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who had recently voiced his approval for the measure.
The proposed legislation seeks to provide women with a full year of Medicaid coverage after giving birth, which is a significant increase from the current two months of coverage. Medicaid covers approximately 60% of births in Mississippi, and the state has high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality, especially among black women who are more likely to face complications after pregnancy. Republican Rep. Missy McGee of Hattiesburg, a longtime advocate for extending postpartum coverage, expressed her support for the bill, stating that it is the right thing to do for women and babies in Mississippi.
The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 7 and will now be debated in the full House by Republican Speaker Philip Gunn and Medicaid Committee Chairman Joey Hood. The deadline for debate is March 8. Governor Reeves, who is seeking reelection, had previously been criticized by Democrats for his unwillingness to support a year of postpartum Medicaid coverage. However, he recently changed his stance, stating that the longer coverage is now part of their new pro-life agenda since more babies are expected to be born after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights nationwide with a case from Mississippi.
Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have extended postpartum Medicaid coverage to a year. Last year, the GOP-controlled Mississippi Senate passed a bill allowing a year of postpartum Medicaid coverage, but Speaker Gunn killed it. However, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid recently endorsed the proposed bill, which has caused Gunn to consider allowing debate in the House.
Although Mississippi has some of the highest rates of poverty in the U.S., officials remain opposed to allowing Medicaid coverage for low-wage workers who don’t have health insurance. Medicaid expansion is optional under the health overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama, but Mississippi is among the 11 states that have not allowed the expansion.