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(REUTERS/Claudia Daut)

Preventable deaths

A health insurance loophole is contributing to shockingly high maternal mortality rates in the U.S.

April 29, 2019

America’s problems with maternal mortality are reportedly being exacerbated by state health insurance policies that remove women’s access to coverage almost immediately after they give birth.

The U.S. has the highest pregnancy-related mortality rates of any country in the developed world — and half of those deaths are preventable, according to Pro Publica. But while the Affordable Care Act mandated that states offer Medicaid to low-income women during pregnancy, that obligation does not extend to women after pregnancy. Accordingly, states across the country are reportedly removing hundreds of thousands of new mothers from their Medicaid rolls within 60 days of giving birth.

Maternal mortality particularly affects black mothers, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. In Texas, a nationwide leader in maternal mortality, already high death rates for mothers doubled after the state moved to deny funding to family planning services such as Planned Parenthood. Black mothers in Texas account for 29 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths — despite giving birth to less than 12 percent of all babies in the state.

Now, proposed legislation in Texas would offer women extended postpartum Medicaid coverage. But to pass, the bill would likely require the support of conservative legislators who are still trying to undo the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that they provide pregnant women with health insurance in the first place.

A more likely model for success might be found in New Jersey, where lawmakers are working to pass 14 bills that could improve health outcomes for mothers, including a Medicaid extension and a doula project. According to New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, the state could become “the safest place in the U.S. to deliver babies”  if it has the political will to actually make it happen.

Read the full story at Vox.

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