JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature passed a bill Friday that extends Medicaid coverage from two months to one year for thousands of new mothers.
Senate Bill 58, proposed by Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, was intended to prevent gaps in health care coverage, and to address the state’s high and rising maternal mortality rate. State Department of Health officials told lawmakers that 51% of births in Alaska are covered by Medicaid.
The Senate passed the final bill 19-1 on Friday with Sen. Mike Shower, a Wasilla Republican, as the lone no vote. The House passed the same legislation Wednesday on a 35-3 vote with Republican Reps. Ben Carpenter, David Eastman and Sarah Vance voting against the bill.
Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, said in April that extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers was critical health care, particularly in rural Alaska. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, told lawmakers that rural Alaska and minorities are overly represented in state statistics for maternal mortality rates.
Currently, the state of Alaska provides Medicaid coverage for mothers who are within 200% of the federal poverty line. Freshman Rep. Will Stapp, a Fairbanks Republican, introduced an amendment to cover recipients who earn up to 225%, which was estimated to increase the number of mothers eligible for coverage by 450, to more than 2,000 per year.
“I believe that this bill is one of the most valuable and impactful things we can do for pregnant moms in this state,” Stapp said on the House floor Wednesday.
Congress passed legislation earlier in the year that allowed states to permanently extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers to one year. More than 30 states have since extended postpartum Medicaid coverage.
The extended coverage is estimated to cost the state $4 million per year, and will start being available July 1 next year.
Dunleavy said in a prepared statement that he was pleased the Legislature passed the bill, and it paves the way for healthier outcomes for mothers and children.