Today Governor Mike Dunleavy signed SB 58, extending eligibility for postpartum Medicaid.
Previously, postpartum Medicaid coverage in Alaska lasted only 60 days. This legislation extends coverage to 12 months.
“I want to see Alaska be the best state in the country for families. This legislation helps ensure that Alaskan mothers and their babies will have access to essential medical care,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “Thank you to the legislature for its overwhelming support of this pro-family bill.”
Maternal mental health is one of Alaska’s most significant contributing factors to pregnancy-associated deaths. Many women who experience postpartum depression don’t have an onset of symptoms until after the 60-day mark, which until now has been too late to seek treatment with Medicaid coverage. Nearly 16 percent of women in Alaska who experienced perinatal depression or anxiety between 2015 and 2020 indicated that they could not access needed treatments or support due to challenges with insurance or cost. Expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage will ensure that mothers are able to receive the physical and mental health care needed to support a strong start to their child’s life.
In addition to mental health, other areas of impact include improved access to care in the following critical areas: substance use, family planning, and prevention and screening of chronic diseases.
By extending postpartum coverage through the critical year post-delivery, this bill reduces gaps in care. Gaps in care are associated with increased use of the emergency room and poorer health outcomes. With extended postpartum coverage, women are much more likely to have access to continuous, regular primary care that is less costly than emergency services.
“Access to health care in the first year of a child’s life supports the health of both mother and child and can have lifelong positive impacts for the child,” said Department of Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg. “By extending Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year after birth, this crucial legislation gives our newest Alaskans an improved opportunity for a healthy start to life, during a critical period of human growth. This legislation allows us to remove one burden for new parents, while setting a better path for Alaskans’ future.”
In addition to extending postpartum coverage, the bill also increases coverage for the “pregnant women” category in Medicaid from the existing rate of 200% federal poverty line to 225% federal poverty line. The Department of Health estimates that this will extend coverage to an additional approximately 450 pregnant women annually.