Tennessee and South Carolina extend health care for new mothers

Asked about the impact of the abortion ban on Tennessee women at a news conference Thursday, anti-abortion Republican Gov. Bill Lee pointed to an extension.

“It is important that we understand that women in crisis need support and assistance in this process. For example, that’s why we’ve expanded our postnatal coverage for women at TennCare,” Li said.

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TennCare is Tennessee’s version of Medicaid, the state’s federal program that reaches about one in five Americans, from many newborns to low-income adults and infirm nursing home residents. The program pays for approximately four out of every 10 births in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women in the United States die every year due to pregnancy-related problems, with slightly more than half after childbirth. Nearly 12% of maternal deaths occur between 43 and 365 days postpartum.

The expansion of coverage was made possible by the position in COVID-19 Relief Bill it expires in five years unless Congress re-ratifies it or makes it permanent.

It was technically possible to extend coverage before billing, but it was difficult. The COVID Bill is reducing the time and paperwork required to obtain approval from Washington under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Tennessee and South Carolina join Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey and Illinois in increasing postnatal coverage from 60 days to 12 months. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is working with nine other states and the District of Columbia to expand coverage.

American women much more likely to die from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth than women in 10 other economically advanced countries, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund. Countries doing better include Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK. The lack of postpartum care in the US was seen as part of the problem.

Also on Friday, Becerra announced the opening of a new $3 million maternal mental health hotline. The service is free, confidential and will work 24 hours a day. The hotline will start working this Sunday, Mother’s Day. Pregnant women and new mothers can contact mental health counselors by calling or texting 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS.

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