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The Maternal Mortality Crisis in the United States Got Worse During the Pandemic: Congress Must Act to Save Mothers’ Lives

Medicaid plays an essential role in maternal health, paying for almost half of all births. Federal law requires states to cover pregnancy, labor, and delivery care for low-income women through Medicaid. But this coverage lasts for just 60 days after giving birth (postpartum). However, the full year following the birth of a baby is a high-risk time for mothers: 53% of maternal deaths occur between seven days and one year after delivery, and 30% of maternal deaths occur between 43 days and one year after delivery.

Almost half of all postpartum women who have Medicaid lose that coverage at the 60-day mark, leaving them uninsured at a time when their health is vulnerable. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the already high rate of maternal deaths took a drastic turn for the worse during the pandemic: The maternal mortality rate across 26 states jumped by 79% between 2018 and 2021. This devastating trend will not change without a shift in policy. Congress should take immediate action to address this critical gap in Medicaid by requiring all state Medicaid programs to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage.

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