A bill that would provide around six times more postpartum Medicaid coverage to new mothers in Wyoming was approved in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon by a razor thin 16-14 vote.
House Bill 4 will next head to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk to be signed into law. Gordon has already indicated he supports the bill.
“It’s great, it’s great for Wyoming families,” said Sheila Bush, Executive Director for the Wyoming Medical Society. “We know babies are at their healthiest when they have healthy moms to take care of them.”
As the Senate clerk briefly paused to tally the votes, Bush and other supporters of “Medicaid twelve month postpartum coverage” nervously leaned forward in their chairs awaiting the final vote count.
“We were confident it was going to be close,” Bush said.
What Does It Do?
HB 4 would increase the length of postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers from 60 days to a year. Mothers who have an income of up to 154% of the federal poverty level qualify for postpartum Medicaid coverage.
Bush said the bill lost support during the legislative process when people began confusing it with a traditional Medicaid expansion. The “Medical treatment opportunity act,” a different bill that would have provided coverage to an expected 19,000 new members, was not considered in the House.
Bush said an extension differs from an expansion in that no new people will be covered under the change, they will just be covered longer.
“They’re not the same,” Bush said.
But assuming Gordon lets the bill pass, HB 4 would likely be the closest legislation to a full Medicaid expansion to pass in Wyoming. Many of the same advocates who pushed for the Medical Treatment Opportunity Act also supported HB 4.
Addressing postpartum depression and infant health were the two main reasons advocates of HB 4 said people should support the bill. Opponents of the bill described it as increasing government dependence.
“Wyoming physicians have been very clear about the need for moms to have access to care, both mental and physical,” Bush said. “This is a really important step forward for them.”
The cost of the extension is $1.9 million, matched dollar-for-dollar by federal money.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act temporarily extended postpartum medical benefits to new mothers to one year. Before that in Wyoming, mothers were covered for 60 days.
With the extension, 1,200-2,000 enrollees are expected to benefit from it. When the COVID postpartum benefits went into effect, enrollment increased from 1,200 to 4,200 in Wyoming.
The bill would make the postpartum Medicaid extension effective through at least 2024. Legislators would have to determine whether they want to continue funding the program by 2024.
No debate was taken on the bill for its third reading vote Wednesday.