In the spring, Colorado Access was honored to support new legislation that would extend Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program) and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) coverage for new moms from 60 days to twelve months. Currently, pregnant people in low-income families qualify for various types of coverage for postpartum care. Both Health First Colorado and CHP+ coverage typically provide just 60 days of postpartum services. For Health First Colorado, postpartum members are either re-determined as eligible under another eligibility category or disenrolled from Health First Colorado.
In the context of a nation grappling with a maternal health crisis that is disproportionately felt by women of color, Colorado Access believes that extending postpartum Health First Colorado and CHP+ coverage from 60 days to twelve months will make a meaningful difference in improving access to care and ultimately improving health outcomes. This new law was passed by the state legislature and goes into effect in July 2022.
Today, as National Breastfeeding Month comes to an end, it’s a good time to take stock of why this extension is so important. National research shows that coverage before, during, and after pregnancy leads to positive maternal and infant outcomes by facilitating greater access to care. The current 60-day cutoff for postpartum coverage simply does not reflect the physical and behavioral health care needs of the postpartum period. This period often presents challenges including lack of sleep, breastfeeding difficulties, new onset or exacerbation of mental health disorders, and more.
As a new mom myself, I can attest to the fact that these issues don’t necessarily surface, nor are they necessarily addressed, in the narrow two-month time frame following the birth of a child. Specifically regarding breastfeeding, it wasn’t until several months into nursing my baby girl that I developed some difficulties and had to contact my doctor’s office. Luckily, it was covered by my insurance and easily resolved – but it was important that I could quickly receive support and didn’t have to be concerned about how I would access care when I needed it.
My daughter just turned one last week and it seems like there have been countless check-ins with her pediatrician (okay, probably more like six or seven). New moms need consistent access to care, too. To support breastfeeding for those who want to, but also to make sure moms have all their health care needs met, including checking in on their mental health and providing ongoing treatment when necessary.
It’s important to note that there are stark and persistent health disparities in maternal health outcomes. Extending coverage for postpartum care is just one piece of this important puzzle. But, it is a meaningful and necessary step forward that will help us better serve our pregnant and postpartum members.