JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation Thursday to solidify a full year of Medicaid coverage for women after they give birth, saying it’s part of a “new pro-life agenda” to help mothers now that abortion access is restricted.
Mississippi usually allows two months of postpartum Medicaid coverage. The state has allowed a full year of the coverage since the COVID-19 public health emergency started in 2020, although many patients have said the state did little to let them know postpartum coverage continued after the usual two months.
With national public health emergency set to expire in May, Mississippi officials intensified their debate over committing to a full year of postpartum benefits. Reeves is seeking reelection, and Democrats hammered him for his long refusal to support the extension.
The governor endorsed the idea Feb. 26, even though he said he had not seen financial information he wanted to justify the roughly $7 million annual cost to the state.
The new law Reeves signed takes effect July 1.
“I believe continuing to offer care for new moms for up to 12 months after the birth of their baby is the right thing to do,” Reeves said in a statement Thursday. ”This is one more thing we can do to tip the scales in favor of life.”
The U.S. Supreme Court used a Mississippi case last year to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and upend abortion rights nationwide. Several days later, Mississippi enacted a 2007 law that says abortion is legal only if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if a pregnancy is caused by a rape reported to law enforcement.
Mississippi health officials have predicted the state could see an increase of 5,000 births per year because of abortion restrictions.
In more than a half-dozen states, Republican officials who previously resisted extending postpartum Medicaid coverage are now embracing it as part of their anti-abortion agenda.
Medicaid pays for about 60% of births in Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the U.S.
As governor since January 2020 and during two previous terms as lieutenant governor, Reeves has resisted efforts to expand the scope of Medicaid and other government programs. He has not publicly changed his opposition to a broader expansion of Medicaid coverage to working people with low-wage jobs that don’t provide private insurance.
Mississippi is one of 11 states that have not approved that broader expansion. That list could be whittled to 10 states, as North Carolina is working on expansion.
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Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press