JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi House committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would provide women with a full year of Medicaid coverage after giving birth, just days after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves voiced his support for the measure.
The bill passed the House Medicaid Committee on a voice vote, with some opposition.
“This is the right thing for women and babies in Mississippi,” said Republican Rep. Missy McGee of Hattiesburg, a longtime advocate for a full year of postpartum coverage rather than the state’s usual two months.
Medicaid pays for about 60% of births in Mississippi. The state is one of the poorest in the U.S., and it has high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality. Black women are significantly more likely to have complications after pregnancy.
Republican Speaker Philip Gunn and Medicaid Committee Chairman Joey Hood, a Republican from Ackerman, will decide whether to bring Senate Bill 2212 up for debate in the full House before the March 8 deadline. The bill passed the Senate Feb. 7.
Reeves is seeking reelection, and Democrats have hammered his unwillingness to advocate for a year of postpartum Medicaid coverage. The governor calls himself a “numbers guy” and has frequently said he isn’t convinced it’s worth spending about $7 million a year for the coverage.
But on Sunday, Reeves said more babies will be born because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights nationwide last year with a case from Mississippi. He said longer Medicaid coverage after birth is “part of our new pro-life agenda.”
During the COVID-19 national public health emergency that began in March 2020, states have been leaving people on Medicaid. That emergency is set to end in May.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have extended postpartum Medicaid coverage to a full year.
Democratic Rep. Omeria Scott of Laurel said Tuesday that she and other Legislative Black Caucus members have consistently sought longer Medicaid coverage for women after birth, long before the officials who are now pivoting on the issue.
“I do think since we sometimes want to recreate history that it is important that we speak the truth,” Scott said.
The GOP-controlled Mississippi Senate passed a bill last year to allow a year of postpartum Medicaid coverage, with Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann advocating the extension. Gunn killed that bill and has said he would allow debate in the Republican-controlled House if the state Division of Medicaid were to endorse the proposal.
Medicaid Director Drew Snyder, who is appointed by the governor, issued a letter Monday saying that allowing a year of coverage after birth “is a suitable approach for Mississippi.”
Reeves, Gunn and many other Republican officials in Mississippi remain opposed to allowing Medicaid coverage for people working low-wage jobs that don’t provide health insurance. Mississippi is among 11 states that have not allowed the expansion. That coverage is optional under the health overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama.