Extending TennCare Postpartum Coverage to 12 Months

May 20, 2021 // Nora Hendricks

Tennessee’s recently approved state budget includes funding to extend TennCare postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months for new mothers, joining the majority of other states that have already extended coverage.

In this video blog, the Tennessee Justice Center explains why it is so important for Tennessee to permanently expand TennCare postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that is seeing a rise in its maternal mortality rate, and at least one-third of maternal deaths in the U.S. happen during the postpartum period. The maternal mortality crisis is disproportionately impacting women of color and most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. For every mother who dies of a pregnancy-related cause, 70 more mothers experience severe maternal morbidity. Medicaid covers almost half of all births in the U.S. and women on Medicaid are 83% more likely than women who have private health insurance to have certain chronic health conditions that can put them at a higher risk for poor maternal outcomes. Between 2017 and 2019 in Tennessee, at least 173 new mothers died before their child’s first birthday, many in ways that are believed by health officials to have been preventable. Most of these mothers were on TennCare during their pregnancy and 61% died between 43 days and a year after giving birth, after their 60-day postpartum coverage would have ended. Extending TennCare postpartum coverage to a year is estimated to benefit around 4,000 to 6,500 new mothers who only become eligible for TennCare in the pregnancy category.

In the summer of 2020, Tennessee proposed extending TennCare postpartum coverage from 60 days to 1 year, but at the last minute, they cut the funding for this pilot program and instead put the money in the state’s rainy day fund. Extending TennCare postpartum coverage to 12 months has again been added to Tennessee’s budget and this budget was recently approved. The state has taken an encouraging step in the right direction towards fighting the maternal health crisis.