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Lawmakers pass bill expanding ambulatory prenatal care for pregnant women

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As Mississippi continues to face high infant and maternal mortality rates, lawmakers have passed legislation that would seemingly take the state one step closer to addressing the needs of pregnant women.

After advancing in an overwhelming 117-5 vote by the House in late January, HB 539 cruised through the Senate on Thursday with just four dissenting votes. The bill, authored by Rep. Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, serves to qualify women for ambulatory prenatal services under Medicaid care for up to 60 days if their net family income does not exceed 194 percent of the federal poverty rate.

Women seeking the expanded services would be required to show proof of pregnancy and documentation of monthly family income to a qualified health provider to become eligible.

“Pro-life is pro-child. Mississippi mothers need access to healthcare the moment they find out they are pregnant and this legislation will accomplish that,” Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said after the bill’s passage. “We are thankful for the consistent leadership of Senators Kevin Blackwell and Nicole Boyd on critical women’s healthcare issues in our chamber.”

In 2022, the national infant mortality rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 5.60 deaths per 1,000 live births. Mississippi’s rate was a staggering 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. Mississippi also has a higher maternal mortality rate than the national average with 42.2 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births on a national scale.

Passage of HB 539, which will now go to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk for approval, is a step by leaders to reverse the troubling trend of rising pregnancy-related deaths across the state.

The move by legislators works hand-in-hand with efforts to expand Medicaid coverage in the state and to require insurance companies to approve both urgent and non-urgent care within a designated timeframe.

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