The Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee introduced a bill Friday that would increase income eligibility limits for the Children’s Health Insurance program and expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from the current 60 days to 12 months.
House Bill 122 is sponsored by Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, and was partly crafted by the nonprofit organization Idaho Voices for Children, which highlighted the changes as legislative priorities in a report released in August.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program — better known as CHIP — is a low-cost health coverage program for children under the age of 19 whose family income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The current income eligibility limits are 138% of the federal poverty level, and House Bill 122 would increase that threshold to 205% of the poverty level, which is the national average for similar programs. For a family of four, 138% of the poverty level would be $41,400, while 205% would be $63,000.
Idaho is one of two states, including North Dakota, that does not cover children at or above 200% of poverty level.
“We currently are basically at the very bottom in the nation when it comes to eligibility for pregnant women and children,” Hillarie Hagen, health policy associate for Idaho Voices for Children, told the Idaho Capital Sun on Friday. “In order to increase health care access for children and pregnant or postpartum women, first they really need access to an affordable health coverage source, and this bill is a great first step in addressing some of our maternal and infant health care trends that are quite concerning in the state.”
Local advocate expects bill to be heard in Idaho House before the end of February
Idaho women who died from pregnancy-related problems doubled between 2019 and 2020, according to the latest Maternal Mortality Review Committee report published in December. All of the deaths were deemed preventable with more knowledge and continuity of care, according to the report, with six having a good chance of altering the outcome with proper monitoring and treatment. Eight of the 11 women — or 72% — were covered by Medicaid.
Postpartum complications can include physical conditions such as hemorrhage, sepsis, hypertension and blood clots, and mental health conditions can include anxiety and depression.
As of 2020, the March of Dimes reported 35% of mothers across Idaho were covered by Medicaid at the time of a child’s birth, with a higher percentage in certain counties, including 44% of births in southwestern Idaho’s Canyon County, 53% in northern Idaho’s Lewis County and 61% of births in eastern Idaho’s Lincoln County.
According to the bill text, pregnant women would also receive coverage up to 205% of the federal poverty level, up from the current 133%, and women who have given birth would be eligible for 12 months of Medicaid coverage. Idaho is one of 13 states without coverage offered beyond 60 days.
According to previous reporting by Kaiser Health News, more states are extending postpartum coverage because the federal American Rescue Plan Act allowed states to make the change without applying for a waiver.
Hagen told the Sun legislators have expressed support for the idea, and she is hopeful it will pass. She expects it will receive a hearing in the House Health and Welfare Committee before the end of February.