Low-income women in North Carolina are now eligible for a year’s worth of Medicaid coverage following a pregnancy or birth.
Some good news for people who’ve been pregnant or given birth in North Carolina: they are now able to stay on Medicaid for an entire year if they meet income guidelines.
The move to a full year of coverage, up from a 60-day cutoff, was made possible by the Covid relief package passed last year by Congress and backed by President Joe Biden. North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature accepted the offer of federal cash to extend health coverage for new moms and pregnant women.
The coverage, which starts the day a pregnancy ends and is free to those who qualify, also applies in situations where women may not give birth or carry a child to term. That means women who may miscarry or opt to exercise their rights to abortions are also eligible, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services.
The extended coverage could go a long way in addressing North Carolina’s maternal and infant mortality crisis, which has resulted in Black women and babies succumbing to often preventable deaths at higher rates than their white and Latina counterparts.
“This extended coverage is an important component to help improve the health of families in our state,” said Dave Richard, deputy secretary for NC Medicaid. “I hope we can build on this important step by expanding Medicaid in North Carolina to further support maternal health and reduce infant mortality by improving health before the pregnancy.”
Black Women and Those in Rural Areas Face More Risks
The United States has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in countries with developed economies, and North Carolina is worse than the nation on both fronts.
Black women and women living in rural areas die at much higher rates in the year following birth than white women and those living in cities and suburbs, research from the World Health Organization has found.
Black babies also die in North Carolina at rates more than twice that of white babies in their first year of birth.
Lower access to quality health care is often cited as one of several factors in these frequently preventable deaths.
Medicaid Provides Care for Most Vulnerable
Medicaid is a safety net health care program — it gives low-income seniors, children and people with disabilities coverage using a combination of federal and state dollars. One in five people in North Carolina are on Medicaid right now.
But North Carolina’s leaders could be doing more to get people covered, if they wished. The Republican-led legislature has so far resisted accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid, a move that would give at least a half-million adults health care coverage they can’t otherwise afford or don’t get through their jobs.
For the year of postpartum coverage, women making less than $34,000 annually for a family of two or more are eligible. Regular doctor visits, prescription drugs, dental, visitation, mental health and substance would be covered and paid for. People can contact their county social services department to apply for coverage while pregnant or following a pregnancy.
The year of coverage begins the day a pregnancy ends, and people can apply while pregnant or within 60 days of a pregnancy ending, according to NC DHHS.