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AZ Lawmakers Consider Medicaid Plan to Extend Postpartum Care

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Friday, April 1, 2022   

A bill to greatly expand health-care coverage for women after giving birth is nearing its final hurdle in the Arizona Legislature - and with bipartisan support, it's expected to pass.

Under Senate Bill 1272, Medicaid coverage for new mothers would expand from 60 days to 12 months. Studies show Arizona currently has one of the highest rates of pregnancy-related deaths in the country.

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said the effort to expand Medicaid coverage - known as AHCCCS (Access) in Arizona - has support from both sides of the aisle.

"I don't think you would see AHCCCS being as supportive as they are if there wasn't support in the governor's office for this," he said. "So, I think all of the indicators suggest that this is going to be a successful bill this year."

According to Humble, the change would benefit many families in the state's low-income and marginalized communities, who have little or no access to affordable health care. The measure was passed earlier by the state Senate and awaits final approval in the House.

Humble said attempts to expand maternal health care in previous sessions were blocked by the Legislature's Republican majority, which refuse to pay for the measure with Arizona tax dollars.

"The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging states and financially incentivizing states to add this coverage up to the first year," he said. "It's making it a much more palatable bill for those fiscal conservatives that would be concerned about using state dollars."

Former state Sen. Heather Carter, who was a sponsor of similar legislation in previous sessions, said Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die than white women within the first year after giving birth.

"We have challenges in Arizona with postpartum deaths," she said, "and so, we need to do all we can to make sure that moms and babies have an opportunity to get life started out on the right foot."


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