My name is Emma Gauthier. I am on the board of directors for The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We work to center the people most impacted by injustice and to leverage the collective strength of the community to eliminate systems of oppression and advance positive change. Together, we can work for a better and more just world for all of our children and families. Supporting the health and well-being of Black mamas seems like an important place to start, especially as this week marks the 5th annual “Black Maternal Health Week”. I am proud to speak out in strong and enthusiastic support of S2202, which ensures 12 months post-partum coverage in Medicaid
Medicaid covers 1 in 5 women of reproductive age and helps make prenatal and delivery care accessible for nearly half of women giving birth, but the coverage cuts off 60 days after the birth of a child. The problem is that a third of maternal deaths occur between one week to a year after childbirth, and Black women two times more likely to die from a pregnancy related cause than white women. Many factors contribute to this horrifying disparity, including chronic stress caused by racism, providers who fail to take Black women’s health concerns seriously, and the lack of providers who come from communities of color.
Fixing this will take comprehensive and multipronged approach, but one significant factor that we can address quickly is the lack of a health care safety net for postpartum women who receive health insurance from Medicaid. While access to insurance alone won’t eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes, insurance must be part of the overall solution. Medicaid has a role to play here – a significant role that can quickly leverage existing systems to provide needed health care in the postpartum period.
Providing continued Medicaid coverage helps ensure women not only recover from birth, but they also have access to the ongoing care they need during and following giving birth. It can help mothers manage chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes and provide access to behavioral health and other mental health care services.
A three year study following 5,000 mothers found that one in four women had elevated depressive symptoms at some point after giving birth, with roughly half of the group experiencing major depressive episodes during the postpartum period. A key recommendation coming out of the research was to ensure that mothers be assessed and provided support and options multiple times early and late in the postpartum period, but when coverage is taken away after a couple of months this critical intervention is taken away. Too often, families using Medicaid simply cannot afford the screening and care without expanded postpartum benefits leaving them in an impossible and dangerous situation.
Protecting and ensuring the health of moms has a positive impact on individuals, but also on their families and our communities. We can do and we should do more. This bill is a critical first step in keeping with best practice recommendations and the recommendations of major medical associations, but most of all in response to the very real needs of families right here in our state.
I urge you to support S2202. It is such an important step forward to address gaps in access to care for individuals and families to get and stay healthy and thrive.
- I am also asking you to support other very important bills to ensure maternal health and to address gaps in access to health care.
- S2549 would help make sure when someone needs to end a pregnancy that they can afford safe abortion care.
- S2502 would expand eligibility or medical assistance for pregnant people and S2548 would provide a special enrollment period for pregnancy.
There is so much more we can do to ensure health and dignity for pregnant, laboring and parenting folks in our state. We hope you will consider ensuring this full package of bills moves forward to make real strides this year towards addressing maternal health inequity and improving birth and health outcomes.
Together, we can do more to meet the needs of Rhode Islanders, reduce health disparities and continue to advance economic recovery, which is dependent on the ability of people to care for themselves and their families. These bills make sense and they are the right thing to do. Please, vote yes on S2202 and put your support behind the many policies being championed this year to ensure and improve maternal health. Thank you.
Contact: Emma Gauthier, [email protected], 401-400-0061