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White House, Gov. Mills announce expansion of maternal health care under MaineCare

Kamala Harris
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to mark the first-ever federal Maternal Health Day of Action at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Several thousand lower-income women in Maine will now have access to 12 months of postpartum care under a Medicaid expansion announced by state and federal officials.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant women who received health coverage under Medicaid were eligible for 60 days of specialized care after giving birth. One of the stimulus packages passed by Congress last year gave states the option of extending that postpartum care to 12 months. And on Thursday, the White House and Gov. Janet Mills announced that Maine’s expansion proposal has been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced expansions Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

"What this means is that 235,000 women will now have access to 12 months of critical postpartum coverage across 14 states and D.C.,” Harris said. “This means that 12 months of pelvic exams, vaccinations, postpartum depression screenings and regular check-ups will be available to those women.”

According to the Mills administration, 39 percent of births in Maine during the year 2020 were covered by the state's Medicaid program, which is known as MaineCare. An estimated 2,000 pregnant women annually are expected to be eligible for 12 months of postpartum coverage under MaineCare.

Mills said the expansion, which was part of a bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year, is part of her administration’s focus on women’s reproductive health. Access to reproductive health care – particularly abortion – is expected to be a key issue in Mills’ upcoming re-election fight against former Republican Gov. Paul LePage and in races across the country as the Supreme Court weighs the future of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

“The need for pregnancy-related health care doesn’t end sixty days after a woman gives birth,” Mills said in a statement. “This move will ensure that women have access to postpartum care for a full year, which will improve their health and that of the children – setting them both up to succeed in the future.