WY Lawmakers Consider Extended Health Coverage for New Moms
Written by Caleb Nelson on January 19, 2023
In Wyoming, new mothers enrolled in the Medicaid Pregnant Women Program, 60 days after giving birth, lose their health insurance. However, a new bill is making its way through the state’s 67th Legislature that would extend coverage for a full year.
Similar to other health care assistance programs, Medicaid does not pay monetary benefits directly to covered participants. Certain health care providers and health care facilities have contracts with Medicaid to treat those who are covered by Medicaid insurance.
Marissa Carpio, policy associate for the Wyoming Women’s Foundation, says having health insurance is the number one determinant of good health for both mothers and their newborns.
“Having health insurance means that you’re more likely to seek preventive care, or get that odd symptom checked out that maybe arose during birth or after birth,” Carpio states. “And to not have to sacrifice the funds for your food or your rent to go figure out those health complications.”
House Bill 4, sponsored by the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee, is now on General File and could get its first vote today.
Some critics argue that expanding coverage for new mothers is unnecessary because assistance is already available through Medicaid’s Family Planning program. Carpio points out the family planning program is not comprehensive, it only covers gynecological exams and lab tests. It does not cover health issues including heart disease or stroke, which are leading causes of death for new mothers.
Working women of childbearing age are currently the largest group in Wyoming without insurance, largely because they are less likely to get coverage through their employer.
“They’re more likely to be working part-time, low-paying jobs that don’t offer insurance anyway,” Carpio notes. “This type of program that is so specific to new mothers in our state is very important for the success of babies and communities.”
Carpio says she believes healing after birth is a long and important process, and access to care will help women avoid financial and health-related stress. Further, it will help them return to work and attain economic self-sufficiency.
“The biggest and most important thing is that continuous coverage after birth,” Carpio emphasizes. “When you’re trying to raise a newborn child, trying to get back to work, the last thing you want to do is try to get your health insurance back to go see the doctor. You should be able to see the doctor when your family needs to.”