Virginia Medicaid zeroes in on plans to address maternal mortality

Virginia Medicaid zeroes in on plans to address maternal mortality
Gov. Ralph Northam announced a goal to eliminate racial disparities in maternal mortality during a ceremonial bill signing on June 5. (Source: Gov. Ralph Northam's Twitter feed)

Virginia’s Medicaid agency on Monday outlined its strategy to meet Gov. Ralph Northam’s announced goal to end the racial disparity in maternal mortality by 2025.

In Virginia, black women are three times more likely than their white counterparts to suffer a pregnancy-associated death. That is due to a variety of causes. From 2009 to 2013, 66 percent of pregnancy-related deaths for black women were due to natural causes, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Medicaid covers 1 in 3 births in Virginia, and Dr. Jennifer Lee, Virginia’s Medicaid director, pointed to expansion as one factor that will help the state meet the goal. Under the previous Medicaid rules, women were eligible for the program only during their pregnancies and 60 days afterward if they didn’t meet the other income requirements.

Expansion opens up the number of women who will remain covered by Medicaid after that 60 day period. Of the more than 296,000 people who have signed up for the program under its new expansion rules, 60 percent are women.

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.