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Legislation that would extend postpartum Medicaid passes House committee

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Legislation that would extend postpartum Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months has been passed by the House Medicaid Committee.

On Monday afternoon, House Speaker Philip Gunn announced that he will not block the legislature from voting on Senate Bill 2212 despite having a long history as an outspoken critic of increasing postpartum Medicaid benefits.

“There has been quite a bit of discussion about whether or not the postpartum benefits should be extended or not and I have been very clear on my position on that,” Gunn stated. “To be candid, I’m still not convinced that I’m all the way there. We’re still going to move the bill along just to keep the discussion alive at the request of the governor.”

Governor Tate Reeves vowed to sign the extension if the bill was passed by the legislature in a social media post on Sunday, arguing that in order for Mississippi to be a better place to raise kids, lawmakers have to be willing to make “philosophically uncomfortable” decisions.

Although the governor does have the authority to sign the extension into law himself, Reeves requested lawmakers in the House to take up the legislation prior to the deadline.

“It is my understanding that the governor can do this on his own, it does not require legislative action. It is my understanding that all they have to do is request a waiver from CMS and everyone believes that would be granted immediately,” Gunn explained.

One day later, Gunn called on the House Committee on House Medicaid to take up the bill before the Tuesday deadline, stating that his decision came after Medicaid Director Drew Snyder wrote a letter to him, explaining that more Medicaid-financed births are expected in a “post-Dobbs world.”

“In light of these unique circumstances, adopting a one-year duration for postpartum pregnant women as set out in Senate Bill 2212 is a suitable approach for Mississippi. It is also consistent with the approach followed by similarly situated Medicaid programs in our region such as Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee,” a portion of the letter reads.

Gunn has stated that although he has pressed for SB 2212 to be passed from out of committee, it does not mean that the House will vote on the legislation.

“We have not decided to do that yet. We have decided to move the bill out of committee and keep it alive,” Gunn said. “It means it goes to the calendar of the House floor and it sits on the calendar until it’s taken up.”

During the 2022 legislative session, SB 2033 — a bill with the same wording as SB 2212 — died on the House calendar after being passed by the House Committee on House Medicaid. Similar to last year, lawmakers have until March 9 to pass the bill before it dies on the House calendar.

At this time, Gunn has released that the House only plans to pass the bill if it includes amendments that address postpartum abortions and verifies if an individual is eligible to receive the benefits.

“If, in fact, this bill goes through, we don’t want any of those benefits being used to perform abortions and so I think we’re going to add a restriction in there to prohibit the performance of abortions,” Gunn explained. “We also need to make sure that anyone who is receiving these benefits is actually qualified or eligible, so there needs to be a verification of eligibility that goes along with it. I don’t think that’s in the bill right now.”

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