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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A Year Of Health Care For New Moms Part Of Ongoing Budget Talks

 Experts say better care for new mothers will lead to healthier mothers and babies.
Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
Experts say better care for new mothers will lead to healthier mothers and babies.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls wants to extend Medicaid coverage for mothers after giving birth from the current two months to a year.

Florida lawmakers met this past weekend to begin ironing out the differences between the House and Senate budgets.

Budget leaders came closer on at least one remaining difference in the health care budget. House Speaker Chris Sprowls has thrown his weight behind a move to give new mothers Medicaid coverage for a year after they give birth.

The initiative wasn’t included in an initial Senate budget proposal, but during a weekend budget conference the Senate offered to meet the House halfway by extending coverage for new mothers from the current two months to six months.

Senate Health Care Appropriations Chair Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, says as of Saturday evening, the chambers still stood apart on a number of health care budget issues.

“Nursing homes, there’s major reductions in nursing homes that we don’t take, they do. There’s major reductions in hospitals. We only cut them a little bit they have major and then the postpartum, where they have coverage for 12 months after they have their baby. We made an offer to get to six months," Bean says.

But Bean says he’s happy to see how the budget negotiations have moved forward. And he says he’s proud of the Senate’s efforts to increase support for new mothers.

“We made it a priority. ... It’s a priority of the House and we wanted to make a good faith [effort]. So we went from zero to six, which meets them halfway,” Bean says.

The initiative is a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who wants to extend Medicaid coverage for mothers after giving birth from the current two months to a year.

Sprowls announced plans earlier this session to increase Medicaid spending for new mothers. Medicaid is a federal and state funded program that helps provide health care for low income people.

Sprowls credits Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, with championing the effort to better support new mothers. Brown says mothers shouldn’t be dying following childbirth.

“By investing greater resources in the budget for this program we are really providing life-saving support for new mothers in need,” Brown says. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 60% of maternal deaths here in the U.S. are actually preventable, and to be perfectly clear, extending this coverage will save lives.”

Andrea Friall is the chief medical officer and an OB-GYN at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. She says that in Florida 50% of all pregnancy-related deaths occur after mothers are discharged from giving birth.

Friall says many of those deaths could have been prevented if mothers had received appropriate follow-up care and monitoring. She says many pregnancy-related deaths stem from treatable concerns like diabetes, hypertension, overdose or issues related to mental health.

And, Brown says, minority and low income mothers, who are more likely to depend on Medicaid for health care, are facing the greatest impacts.

“As we previously heard, this problem impacts minority communities disproportionately,” Brown says. “Disparities in maternal health equality results in mothers of color in Florida being three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white mothers.”

Experts say giving mothers more care following childbirth will help ensure fewer mother die.
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