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Senator: Gov. Reeves giving lawmakers chance to extend postpartum Medicaid

Photo courtesy of Senator Daniel Sparks/website

Governor Tate Reeves has placed pressure on the state legislature to pass Senate Bill 2212, which would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months in Mississippi.

In a Sunday afternoon Twitter post, Reeves argued that in order for Mississippi to be a better place to raise kids, lawmakers have to be willing to make “philosophically uncomfortable” decisions such as extending postpartum coverage.

Several legislative officials have announced their support for the extension following a release by the Mississippi Maternal Mortality Report showing that the state’s maternal mortality rate has increased by 8.8 percent between 2013 to 2016 and 2017 to 2019. Out of the total number of deaths, 82.5 percent were reported as being Medicaid recipients.

Although the governor does have the authority to sign the extension into law himself, Reeves has called on lawmakers to do it prior to Tuesday’s deadline. At this time, the bill — which the Senate passed 41 to 11 in early February — has been referred to the House Committee on Medicaid.

Senator Daniel Sparks, R-Belmont, has stated that he believes that the House should take the opportunity to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.

“I’m in the legislature, and I do believe that the legislature should legislate. You know, we often get bent out of shape…when we have executive orders or executive action,” Sparks explained. “The legislature is elected by the people, so we should get to speak to the issue. And I think the governor was very clear by saying, ‘Look, I’m going to let the legislative process play out, but I’m telling you if you send me a postpartum bill, I’m going to sign it.’”

Sources have informed SuperTalk Mississippi News that the House of Representatives currently has enough votes to pass the legislation. However, it remains in committee as House Speaker Philip Gunn has previously been an outspoken critic of the idea.

“Well, it is a form of expansion. It’s the exact same argument that you would make for heart disease, or diabetes, or any other illnesses in the state,” Gunn said last week. “It’s all the form of the same thing. At least, that’s the view that we take.”

During the 2022 legislative session, Gunn expressed his disapproval of SB 2033 — a bill with the same wording as SB 2212 — leading the legislation to die on the House calendar.

Sparks explained that unlike the last session, postpartum Medicaid benefits may be extended regardless of if the legislation is passed by the House.

“Now if we fail to send him one, then that would be his decision at that point, but I think he’s being fair by allowing the legislative process to work,” Sparks said.

So far, postpartum coverage has been extended for up to mothers on Medicaid for up to 12 months under the Public Health Emergency for COVID-19. Those benefits, which are provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, are set to expire on May 11.

If passed, the bill would go into effect on July 1. According to Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, the majority of the funds needed for the extension would be supplemented by federal dollars.

“It costs us $7 million for $32 million worth of coverage for these people. $7 million in a $6 billion budget,” Hosemann said.

Mississippi and Wyoming are the only states that do not have an extension of postpartum benefits to 12 months or a full expansion of Medicaid.

The full interview with Sparks can be watched below.

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