Iowa legislators move forward with Governor Reynolds’ plan to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women

During a panel on the bill Monday, maternal health care advocates had mixed responses to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to expand Medicaid coverage for mothers and newborns.

Senate Study Bill 3140 aims to extend the duration of postpartum care coverage from two months to a whole year. However, to maintain budget neutrality and align the state with other states’ thresholds, the qualifying income threshold would be reduced from 375 percent of the federal poverty level to 215 percent of the federal poverty level, as stated by the governor’s office.

Iowa has not yet implemented the expanded benefits from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed in 2021. This puts Iowa alongside two other states that have yet to enact this expansion.

“The coverage provided by the governor’s proposal is specifically targeted towards individuals who are in genuine need,” Molly Severn, the legislative liaison from the governor’s office, emphasized.

Advocates for maternal health care lauded the bill for its inclusion of additional benefits for mothers. However, they expressed concerns regarding the potential reduction in the number of eligible families under the proposed legislation.

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According to Chaney Yeast, the director of governmental relations at UnityPoint Health Blank Children’s Hospital, it is crucial to expand the eligibility for the program due to the pressing issue of maternal and infant mortality in Iowa.

According to Yeast, pulling this single policy lever can effectively enhance the health of mothers and babies, while also providing support to the workforce in Iowa.

The lapse in coverage, according to Yeast, will have the most significant impact on working mothers, particularly those who do not have access to health insurance through their employers.

“So, let’s discuss the potential impact of lowering the Federal Poverty Level on Medicaid coverage for pregnant women,” Yeast mentioned. “It’s important to consider the group we’re referring to – working moms.”

Midwives address the expanding maternal health desert in Iowa.

The panel of lawmakers unanimously agreed to move forward with the bill, with a 3-0 vote, for further review by the entire Iowa Senate Health and Human Services committee.

Iowa Senator Mark Costello, a Republican from Imogene, highlighted that even with the bill, the state would still rank 13th among the 47 states that have expanded the program, emphasizing that it is a relatively high position.

Iowa Senator Janet Petersen, a resident of Des Moines, expressed her support for the bill. However, she emphasized the importance of Iowa maintaining its leadership in postpartum coverage and remaining at 375 percent of the federal poverty level.

According to Petersen, it is crucial that we do not regress in our efforts to improve the conditions for pregnant women and babies in the state. She emphasizes that 47 states have already implemented such measures, highlighting the urgency for us to catch up.

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