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Local News

Wisconsin lawmakers call for expanded Medicaid coverage for new mothers

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by Baylor Spears, Wisconsin Examiner
May 1, 2024

Wisconsin lawmakers called Tuesday for the expansion of Medicaid, including additional coverage for women after giving birth. The state is one of only three that have turned down a federal extension of postpartum coverage.

Wisconsin is one of 10 states that haven’t accepted a full expansion of the Medicaid program offered by the federal government. Under the expansion, Medicaid eligibility would be extended to adults under age 65 with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. It’s estimated that over 89,000 Wisconsin residents would be covered under the expansion. 

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said during a press call hosted by Protect Our Care, an Affordable Care Act advocacy group, that it’s a “disgrace” that Wisconsin hasn’t expanded Medicaid.

“When Wisconsin first rejected Medicaid expansion the state budget took a $250 million hit. Now that’s up to $1.6 billion… that Wisconsin is leaving on the table because of partisan refusal to expand Medicaid,” Moore said.

Moore and state Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) also urged the expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage — a measure that continues to be blocked in Wisconsin despite broad support. 

As a way of improving maternal health and improving racial disparities in maternal outcomes, the U.S. government started offering states the opportunity to expand postpartum coverage to 12 months, as opposed to 60 days, in 2021. Only three states in the U.S. have not accepted the extended postpartum Medicaid coverage as of March of this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicaid Postpartum Coverage Extension Tracker.

Moore said that 60 days is “not enough time to look after the needs of women and children who could have all kinds of maladies before, during and after birth.” 

“We know that two-thirds of maternal deaths occur in the 12 months after the baby is born, and that the United States is the only developed country where maternal mortality has increased — doubling over the past two decades,” Vining said. “It is considered more dangerous today for a woman in her 30s to have a baby than it was for her mother. We are trending in the wrong direction and we need to turn it around.” 

Vining noted that a bill that would implement the expansion passed the Senate last year in a 32-1 vote, and that the bill had support from about two-thirds of state lawmakers in the Assembly.

Vining said that opposition from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who has said he doesn’t support any kind of Medicaid expansion, is holding the measure up. The state Legislature has completed its work for the year, but she said Vos could call lawmakers back to hold a vote on the measure.

“The Speaker… can call us back into session. He can call us into [an] extraordinary session, and we can hold a vote. We know we have the votes… The Speaker is the one with the power here. He needs to be the one who can call us in the session and make this happen for Wisconsin women.”

This story is republished from Public News Service under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.