April 12, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin, Kelly, Underwood Applaud Biden Administration for Signing Illinois Waiver Extending Health Care Coverage for New Moms


Thanks to the lawmakers’ leadership, waiver will extend health care coverage for new moms on Medicaid in Illinois from 60 days after pregnancy to a full year

[WASHINGTON D.C] – During Black Maternal Health Week, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), and U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) today applauded the Biden Administration for approving and signing Illinois’ 1115 waiver, which will extend health care coverage for new moms on Medicaid in Illinois from 60 days after pregnancy to a full year.  In February 2020, Durbin and Kelly led 14 members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation in sending a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requesting approval for Illinois’ effort to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms.

For the past two congresses, Durbin and Kelly have introduced the bicameral Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA’s) Act, which seeks to improve maternal and infant health outcomes, especially for women and babies of color.  One of the main provisions of this legislation is ensuring that new moms can remain on Medicaid health coverage for a full year after their pregnancy, versus just 60 days.  Further, thanks to Duckworth, Durbin, Kelly, and Underwood’s leadership, the American Rescue Plan included a provision to give states a five-year option to extend health care coverage for new moms on Medicaid from 60 days after pregnancy to a full year.  In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this provision will help improve and save the lives of new mothers—especially women of color who are at increased risk of serious complications, or even death, because of their pregnancy.  

“It is absolutely unconscionable that hundreds of expectant and new moms are dying every year from preventable causes in this country,” Duckworth said. “For Black women especially, the rising maternal mortality rate and medical racism in our country is a crisis. I’m so pleased that Secretary Becerra took action today to make sure that this much-needed healthcare safety net will be available to Illinoisans on Medicaid, and I hope it leads to better birth outcomes and helps prevent maternal mortality.”

“Today’s announcement is welcome news to new moms, but especially new moms of color, who are six times more likely than white women in Illinois to die because of their pregnancy,” Durbin said.  “Cutting off health coverage for new mothers just two months after they give birth—especially in the midst of a pandemic—is both dangerous and short-sighted.  But thanks to today’s action by the Biden Administration, this common sense and widely supported policy will help save the lives of babies and mothers across Illinois.”

“Just this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that maternal mortality continues to rise, and that the risks of maternal death for women of color are only worsening,” said Kelly, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. “Expanding access to postpartum care for all women who qualify for Medicaid coverage is a lifesaving measure for mothers and babies. Earlier this year, I led my colleagues in a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra to approve Illinois’ waiver to allow for additional Medicaid coverage beyond the current 60 day allowance. I am relieved that Secretary Becerra has approved the waiver and that thousands of Illinois women will now have access to the postpartum care they deserve. This is an issue I have been working on for many years, through introducing the Helping Moms Act and fighting to include a provision in the American Rescue Plan to allow for additional postpartum coverage. We still have much work to do for women across the country, but this is an important step forward for Illinois.”

“Thanks to today’s announcement, Illinois mothers will be able to access the care and support they need and deserve for the full postpartum period. And with Black women and birthing people in our state dying at six times the rate of white women, the postpartum coverage expansion will also be a historic step in ending the stark racial disparities in maternal mortality that have persisted for far too long in Illinois – a particularly meaningful step at the beginning of Black Maternal Health Week. I look forward to continuing to work with the Biden-Harris Administration to save lives and achieve true birth equity in our state and across our nation,” said Underwood.

The United States is one of only 13 countries in the world where the maternal mortality rate is worse now that it was 25 years ago and is the only industrialized country with a rising maternal mortality rate.  These shocking statistics cut across geography, education level, income, and socio-economic status. On average, maternal mortality claims the lives of about 700 American moms each year—an additional 70,000 women suffer near-fatal health complications—with more than 60 percent of these deaths being preventable.  Women of color are particularly at risk—nationwide, Black women are more than three times as likely than white women to suffer pregnancy-related deaths.

Maternal and infant mortality is especially important to Illinois families.  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), on average, 73 new Illinois mothers die every year, with more than 70 percent of these deaths deemed preventable. While Illinois’ maternal mortality rate is slightly lower than the national average, the disparity of Black mothers dying is nearly double the national disparity.  According to the IDPH, Black mothers in Illinois die at 600 percent the rate of their white counterparts.

The importance of passing this provision has become even more vital given that the ongoing global health pandemic has both disproportionately impacted our communities of color, and left many pregnant and postpartum women searching for answers about how best to protect themselves and their children.