A bill making its way through the Wisconsin Legislature would seek to improve health care access for young families and new moms. If passed, the state would extend their Medicaid coverage for women who gave birth from 60 days to 365 days - one full year.

And even though its origins fall into some traditional partisan categories, it's developed bipartisan support in Madison.

One major driving force behind the push to pass the new legislation is the upcoming sunset of medical coverage provided under the provisions supplied during the COVID-19 Pandemic. When that Public Health Emergency ends in May, news sources suggest that "some 300,000 people are expected to lose [health] insurance" in Wisconsin.  Demographically speaking, many of those people are pregnant or postpartum women.

Currently, those women potentially qualify for extended Medicaid coverage for 60 days after they give birth. However, they need to meet certain thresholds which include having "family incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level". Wisconsin Legislators tried to extend that extended coverage from 60 days to 90 days during the budget process last year; while that measure passed, official approval is still being held up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The last action taken on it was in June 2022.

Soft focus of baby hands and mom. New family and baby protection concept

While the physical health benefits of extended Medicaid coverage for new mothers is easy to see, some other more "hidden" - or less spoken - benefits would also become available. Postpartum depression is a common medical problem for many women; the extended Medicaid benefits would allow those mothers to seek care for that as well. Dr. Jasmine Zapata - the Chief Medical Officer with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services explains:

"I have seen that when birthing people are extremely stressed out or have a lot of different emotional and medical needs that they can't address for themselves, it's very hard to advocate for themselves and get the help that they need, but also to take care of the new baby."

For now, it appears that the proposed bill is gaining traction among Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans alike. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is in support.  But so is State Representative Donna Rozer and State Senator Joan Ballweg, both Republicans and both co-sponsors.

The Wisconsin Bill is currently being worked through the Senate; advocates expect a hearing before the end of March.

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