(publicnewsservice.org) – With concerning trends emerging for pregnant and postpartum women, frustration is growing that Idaho lawmakers could end the session without addressing key issues.
The maternal mortality rate doubled each year between 2019 and 2021 in Idaho. The state also ranks last for income eligibility for pregnant women on Medicaid.
House Bill 201 would have extended Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months after birth but has not received a hearing.
Hilarie Hagen, health policy associate at Idaho Voices for Children, said a large coalition of health care organizations, providers and families supported the legislation.
“Providing access to affordable health coverage helps reduce maternal mortality rates, improves birth outcomes, and Idaho’s maternal health trends are going to continue on their downward trajectory every year we don’t take action,” Hagen stressed.
Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, said he was supportive of the bill, and he had received a number of calls in support of it. However, Vander Woude noted the committee will not hold a hearing on it this session because he believes the Legislature has to get control of the Medicaid budget first.
This week, Bonner General Hospital in Sandpoint announced it would no longer deliver babies because of a provider shortage. The hospital also cited Idaho’s legal and political climate as part of the reason for closing its maternity ward.
Hagen pointed out the provider shortage has become exacerbated in recent years.
“We are increasingly seeing providers choose to leave the state because of policy decisions made by Idaho lawmakers,” Hagen asserted. “It’s really discouraging to see that we are reducing access for moms and their babies.”
Another measure unlikely to pass this session is House Bill 81, which would have extended the federally funded Maternal Mortality Review Committee passed its sunset date in July. Hagen emphasized Idaho will be the only state in the nation without a Maternal Mortality Review Committee.