New mothers in Maine will soon qualify for expanded MaineCare health coverage under a plan proposed by the Mills administration and approved by the federal government.

The federal government Thursday authorized a request from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to extend postpartum health care coverage from 60 days after birth to 12 months.

Mothers who qualify for MaineCare coverage, however, will have to wait until Aug. 1, when the coverage plan kicks in. Maine will then become one of just 16 states to offer extended postpartum care under Medicaid, or MaineCare, which provides insurance to low-income residents.

In a news release, Gov. Janet Mills said the move will ensure women do not lose access to postpartum care for childbirth recovery, pregnancy complications, chronic health conditions, family planning and mental health support. The move to full-year coverage will benefit about 2,000 women a year, Mills said. In 2020, 39 percent of all births in Maine were covered by MaineCare.

“The need for pregnancy-related health care doesn’t end sixty days after a woman gives birth,” Mills said in a statement. “This move will ensure that women have access to postpartum care for a full year, which will improve their health and that of the children, setting them both up to succeed in the future.”

The American Rescue Plan provided states with the option to extend postpartum coverage from the federally-required minimum of 60 days to 12 months through a state plan amendment. Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, sponsored the legislation (L.D. 1781) to authorize the administration to seek the extension.

“Governor Mills’ decision to expand Medicaid postpartum health care coverage to 12 months after birth will give thousands of mothers the support they deserve at a vulnerable time and make a huge difference in Maine’s rural and low-income communities,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said in a joint statement.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on national health issues, says postpartum care is an ongoing process that typically involves multiple visits and followup care with health professionals that often extends past 60 days. Studies have shown that suicide among pregnant or postpartum women has risen over the past decade, with at least one in 10 women experiencing perinatal depression, according to Kaiser.

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