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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington Senate considers longer care for new moms

By Daisy Zavala The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – New moms in Washington would be able to have state-funded coverage for up to one year after giving birth, under two bills being considered by the Senate.

Maternal mortality rates are high in Washington, particularly for rural communities and communities of color, said Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton.

“For postpartum Medicaid to end just 60 days after pregnancy creates an unsafe gap in coverage,” she said.

Her bill would require the state provide up to one year of coverage for any applicant who is at or below 193% of the federal poverty level. Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, would allow a similar level of coverage if money is available in the budget.

The coverage would come through Apple Health, which covers pregnant women who reside in Washington and meet or make less than the income level in the two bills. Both bills would extend the coverage period and prompt the Health Care Authority to submit a waiver to the federal government for money to match state expenses past 60 days.

“It not only is important for new moms and their babies, but it’s also important for the overall long-term health care,” O’Ban said.

Under both bills, the Health Care Authority would be required to provide coverage regardless of whether the federal waiver is approved.

Cori Domschot, who testified in support of both bills, said that just before her Apple Health coverage expired she was diagnosed with severe postpartum anxiety.

“My anxiety was so severe that I was convinced someone was going to come and take my child away from me all the time,” she said.

But she had access to only two treatment options at the time, Domschot said, “both of which came with incredible out-of-pocket costs for my family.” And neither option covered therapy that didn’t require drugs that would have ended her ability to breastfeed, she said.

Laura Sienas, a doctor who spoke on behalf of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said maternal mortality rates are increasing in the country. Over 700 new moms die every year from pregnancy-related conditions, which occur between 43 and 365 days postpartum.