By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
A measure extending Medicaid benefits up to six months for new mothers in Georgia passed out of the General Assembly late Monday.
House Bill 1114, by Rep. Sharon Cooper, authorizes the state to apply for a federal waiver that would allow Georgia to offer Medicaid coverage to income-eligible women up to six months post-partum. The current Georgia Medicaid program only permits coverage for up to two months.
The bill would also extend Medicaid coverage to lactation specialists for mothers having trouble feeding their babies.
It passed unanimously out of the Senate on Monday night and now heads back to the House for final passage.
Extending coverage for low-income mothers with newborns stemmed from a House study committee on maternal mortality last year that looked at 101 cases of pregnancy-related deaths in Georgia and found 60% could have been prevented with better health care.
Cooper, R-Marietta, who chaired the study committee, has said she considers herself “very much a champion for quality health care for our mothers and babies.”
Passing Cooper’s bill was among the top legislative priorities this year for Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.
The extended coverage was at risk of not being funded in the state budget starting July 1 amid spending cuts prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and Georgia’s recent economic slowdown.
But the state Senate ultimately elected to keep funding for six months of coverage in place, totaling roughly $379,000 in state and federal funds. The fiscal year 2021 budget is awaiting final approval in the 2020 legislative session, which is scheduled to end Friday.
Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, who carried Cooper’s bill on the Senate floor, said Monday the bill aims to help curb rates of maternal mortality and infant deaths in Georgia.
“Although our budget crisis is affecting all our programs, this bill moves us in a better direction to cover our new moms and babies during a vulnerable period in their lives,” said Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta. “This should pay dividends in the state for years to come.”