HHS approves waiver for Illinois to expand Medicaid postpartum coverage to one year

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced several measures to improve maternal health outcomes, including more funding for improving rural outcomes. (Getty/AleMoraes244)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it approved a waiver for Illinois to ensure Medicaid eligibility for pregnant and postpartum women for 12 months, the first state to get such a waiver.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a press conference Monday that the wavier approval is part of a series of measures the agency is taking to address maternal health outcomes. Becerra also said HHS has made $12 million in funding available for improving rural health maternal outcomes.

Becerra lauded the approval of the Illinois waiver, extending Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months.

“There has been a lot of interest in this because there have been numerous studies to show how important it is to keep that woman under care and have that family know there is continuity,” he said during the conference.

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The waiver extends through Dec. 31, 2025, and enables Illinois to “test the effects of providing full Medicaid benefits to women for 12 months,” according to a release from HHS on the waiver.

Becerra noted the postpartum period is an integral part of maternity care, saying that in the U.S., 52% of pregnancy-related deaths take place postpartum.

The newly confirmed secretary also announced a notice of funding opportunity for $12 million over four years. Stakeholders that got a part of the funding would use it to test models that “address unmet needs for their target population,” HHS said in a release.

“For the first time, applicants are required to focus on populations that have historically suffered from poorer health outcomes, health disparities and other inequities,” HHS added.

Becerra said in a statement that the measures are part of a larger priority among the Biden administration to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly among Black women.

“Expanding access to health insurance coverage, preventative care and investing in rural maternity care is one step forward,” Becerra said.