Washington State Bill on improving maternal health outcomes heads to the Governor’s Desk

A bill that aims to improve maternal health outcomes by extending coverage during the postpartum period passed in the House on Monday. The vote was nearly unanimous, with only Rep. Vicki Kraft voting against the bill.

 

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Senate Bill 5068, sponsored by Sen. Emily Randall, will require the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) to provide one-year of postpartum coverage through Apple Health. The coverage will be implemented in two phases.

In the first phase, the HCA must extend coverage from the current 60 days of postpartum coverage to the new one year of coverage for individuals who are receiving Apple Health postpartum coverage. This must be done on or after the expiration of the federal public health emergency related to COVID-19.

In the second phase of the bill, the HCA must provide one-year of postpartum coverage to Washington residents who have an income at or below 193% of the federal poverty line.  This coverage must be provided up to 12 months post pregnancy and cannot be terminated if the enrollee’s income changes.

Randall said this bill addresses problems that have always existed but have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“This is so important now, in this moment to enact this policy. We know that there are disproportionate health outcomes for particularly moms of color. We also know that two months is hardly enough time to get yourself cared for after giving birth to a new baby and trying to get all of its many visits done. And we also know because of the extension of the FMAP increase under the federal policy, we have been extending coverage and ensuring that new birth parents are covered for longer. And what I don’t want to do at the end of the emergency is to create a huge cliff and all of a sudden kick everyone off.”

She added that there is policy coming at the federal level to make this extended postpartum coverage easier for all states to implement. 

Randall also touched on how a version of this bill has passed the House and the Senate before, only to be vetoed by the Governor. This was not because of any issues the Governor had with the bill but rather because of the effect of COVID-19 on the budget. In a statement on April 3, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee said:

“Circumstances have changed dramatically since the 2020 supplemental operating budget was approved by the Legislature last month. The COVID-19 pandemic is having catastrophic effects on the health and welfare of Washingtonians. It will also have a major impact on the economic health of our state. I have conferred with leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate, and we agree that we must prepare for the effects of the lost revenue that will result from this pandemic.”

 

This bill will now be signed by the leaders of each chamber and then move to the desk of the governor to be signed.