SB 967 to improve maternal health care and help reduce health disparities for women of color

On Sep. 17, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the passage of Senate Bill 967 after the General Assembly approved the correction of a technical error in the legislation. The bill aims to further the state’s efforts in reducing health disparities and improving maternal health outcomes for women of color.

 

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The bill extends maternal and postpartum Medicaid coverage to include services such as prenatal depression screenings and nurse home visitations for legal and undocumented residents of the state for up to a year after pregnancy. The bill also amends several public health statutes to be inclusive of gender identity.

During a press conference at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville, Pritzker said:

“Earlier this year, Illinois proudly became the first state in the union to offer eligible mothers 12 months of postpartum care coverage through Medicaid … Today, I’m proud to announce that, thanks to recent federal approval, we’re extending that maternal and pre-natal coverage for all legal, permanent residents, and undocumented residents, ensuring that ours is a state that looks out for all that call Illinois home.”

Brigid Leahy, senior director of public policy at Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, expressed her support of the bill’s provisions for expanded Medicaid coverage.

“One of the most important things that Medicaid can do is make sure that people have the health care that they need, and that they are able to be as healthy as possible, but also make sure that our next generation is healthy. And so that’s what’s so key to making sure … that we have the full range of reproductive health care covered in Medicaid … Family planning can be very key in making sure that you have healthy pregnancies, that deliveries go smoothly, that infants are born at full term with a good weight, and that they are healthy … We at Planned Parenthood believe that health care is a human right, that we cannot be fully members unless we have access to health care and Medicaid.

The other thing that we think is very important … is making sure that everyone has access to a full range of reproductive health care, so that they can make the decisions that are best for themselves and their families. And so that means, in Medicaid, you need to have a full range of coverage for a full range of services, and make sure that everyone then can really have options available to you. Your health care shouldn’t depend on where you live or what your income is.”

The new law also expands covered postpartum providers to include doulas and certified midwives, and establishes new requirements for private insurance coverage to include postpartum services related to mental health and substance abuse.

The 2018 Illinois Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report found Black women are six times more likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition as white women. Furthermore, 72% of the pregnancy-related deaths were deemed preventable by the review committees. 

Leahy believes changes need to be made to address the significant health care disparities around maternal health in Illinois.

“There needs to be justice when it comes to health care, and everyone has that right to be … as healthy as they can possibly be. And therefore, it is important that we keep advocating to make sure that everyone, no matter their income or types of insurance, has quality health care. Without that, we are really not a just society…

We want to make sure that everyone has access. And you will not have racial justice, you will not have social justice if certain groups of people are left behind. And it is unconscionable that we could have the statistic in Illinois that Black women are six times more likely to die [of a pregnancy-related death] than white women. That is unacceptable, and we needed to do something to change that.”

With the passage of SB 967, as well as other legislation related to maternal health passed this year, Leahy remains optimistic about the future of women’s health care in the state.

“Illinois has done a lot of work around sexual and reproductive health care and women’s health care … There’s all kinds of wonderful coverage in Illinois. We have been on the forefront of making sure that our state Medicaid program covers the full range of reproductive health care, birth control, maternity care, abortion … all of those are covered. I am very optimistic with the progress we’ve made, passing the Reproductive Health Act, which ensures that reproductive health care is a fundamental right in Illinois law.

All of these things we’ve done in recent years is just paving the way for us to continue to make progress. There’s still more work to be done. Not everyone has access to affordable health care in our state, and we are committed to making sure that everyone has access to that care in the future.”