According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40,000 pregnant women have been infected with COVID-19, and upwards of 8,000 have been admitted to the hospital for treatment since January 22, 2020. More than 50 pregnant women have died. Although, because only about a third of COVID-19 case report forms include information on pregnancy status, these numbers are likely an underestimate of the number of pregnant women in the United States with COVID-19.
In the United States, Medicaid is the largest payer of maternity care. Millions of women rely on Medicaid during their pregnancy to obtain necessary and essential health care; yet, under federal law, many women lose coverage 60 days after the end of pregnancy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, at the urging of many, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Congress enacted a temporary fix preventing states from terminating Medicaid coverage for pregnant and postpartum women during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Unfortunately, if further action is not taken before the public health emergency ends, individuals, especially those with low incomes and those impacted by job loss, will once again be at risk of losing coverage in the postpartum period. This loss of coverage could threaten their lives; indeed, a growing number of maternal deaths occur during the postpartum period when many women relying on Medicaid are at risk of losing coverage.
It is essential that both federal and state governments implement policy solutions that preserve care for women in the postpartum period. Extension of Medicaid coverage for the full year after delivery is a critical step in our nation’s efforts to combat unacceptable maternal mortality and morbidity rates.