Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has reason to be worried he’ll lose reelection to a Democrat this fall and—would you look at that!—he now suddenly supports expanding postpartum health insurance coverage for women and birthing people, an issue the Democrats have been criticizing him on.
The state has one of the country’s highest maternal mortality rates, and that was before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion is now banned in Mississippi, and officials expect an additional 5,000 births a year. The mere fact of more pregnancies means that there will be more pregnancy-related deaths in every state. Since we shamefully don’t guarantee healthcare in this country, people without insurance can get Medicaid coverage during their pregnancy, and for 60 days postpartum. States can expand that period for longer, and experts recommend a at least a full year of coverage to help prevent maternal deaths and complications.
House Medicaid Committee Chairman Joey Hood said he will call a committee meeting for Tuesday, the deadline to keep postpartum extension legislation alive by committee passage. The measure is expected to pass.
A Mississippi Today survey of House lawmakers in early February showed a majority support extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers from 60 days to a year, but Gunn twice blocked the measure from coming to a House vote last year.
“For a year, we’ve been asking the department of Medicaid to give us some guidance,” Gunn said. “I have this letter today, where they have said it is a suitable approach for Mississippi. They support doing it and they do not view it as Medicaid expansion — it’s not adding new people onto the rolls. Those have been my two main concerns this whole time. I feel like we have been consistent.”
The state abolished abortion with exceptions for rape and incest in June of last year. According to Mississippi Today, Tuesday, February 28th is the deadline for the bill to pass out of the House Medicaid committee: “Speaker Philip Gunn has voiced opposition and Medicaid Chair Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, has refused to express an opinion on the issue.” Gunn announced last November that he would not seek reelection in the state’s 2023 election, and as of this writing has not responded to a request for comment from The American Conservative.
“The postpartum Medicaid expansion, what I have said in the past, and I will continue to say today is that the data is incomplete at best,” noted Reeves on February 16.
But through social media posts, two days before the legislative deadline to move the bill out of committee, the governor put out this endorsement. Saying, “in a post-Dobbs world – we may even have to be willing to do things that make us “philosophically uncomfortable.” He added a call for the legislature to pass the bill extending the coverage to 12 months, and he would sign it.
“We’re saying to the Speaker of the House, join us,” said Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Sr., Fellowship of International Churches and Head Pastor of New Horizon Church International. “And let’s do this because it’s the right thing to do for Mississippi because we value and we love our mothers and our children.”
“At this time when women’s choices and self determination is being prescribed, it is all the more important that this essential postpartum health care be extended,” added Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville and Working Together MS organizer.
House Minority leader, Representative Robert Johnson, is glad to see the governor’s change of course but:
“The truth is the governor can do it himself. He’s essentially the head of Medicaid. He appoints the chairman of Medicaid. All the governor has to say is do it. He could do it with a stroke of a pen,” said Rep. Robert Johnson.
The House Medicaid committee would need to pass Senate Bill 2212 out by Tuesday to keep it in play.
The Speaker Philip Gunn’s office tells us he received a letter with the information he had requested from the Division of Medicaid. We’re told it says they’re supportive of the extension of postpartum coverage. And the bill is expected to be taken up in the Medicaid committee Tuesday morning.
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