In the recent state legislative session, two bills were passed that will favorably affect access to, and quality of, maternity care for Illinois Medicaid members.
In support of expanded access to care, legislation was passed that increased the payment for maternity visits to an amount equal to what is paid for adult physical exams. This increase is double what Medicaid previously paid for prenatal and postpartum care and is expected to encourage hospitals and providers to increase access to maternity services in underserved areas, also known as “maternity deserts.”
“Maternity deserts” are counties where access to care is limited or absent, but also include places where women are unable to connect with providers, such as areas that lack transportation services. This unequal access to high quality maternity care exists throughout Illinois, in both urban and rural areas. For example, at one point in 2020, the number of hospitals offering maternity care on the South Side of Chicago had dropped from seven to just three. This situation remains challenging.
Samantha Olds Frey, CEO, the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans (IAMHP) states; “Women who live in rural communities are not the only ones challenged by limited access to maternity care services and this bill is intended to address these gaps.”
A second bill passed by the Illinois legislature is focused on increasing access to a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV) for pregnant women covered by Medicaid. This procedure is done to move babies from breech to the headfirst (or “head-down”) birthing position prior to delivery.
Although ECV is often successful, many eligible women are not offered this option, because Medicaid payment rates are low and access to providers who perform the service is limited. When successful, ECV is shown to reduce the number of C-sections and thereby shorten recovery times for new mothers and lower the total cost of maternity care.
“Increasing the amount Medicaid plans pay for ECV is beneficial for all stakeholders and, most importantly, expands access to quality care for Medicaid members and their families,” says Olds Frey.
Illinois State Legislators, and the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans (IAMHP), have partnered to provide important resources needed to reduce maternal-infant mortality rates for Illinois Medicaid members. Both of these bills are intended to address gaps in maternity care.
“I am so proud and excited to have successfully championed these rate increases for maternity care and gratefully acknowledge the efforts of State Representative Greenwood and State Senator Morrison in support of enhanced maternity care benefits for women covered by Medicaid,” says Olds Frey.
The Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans (IAMHP) is an advocacy, member organization representing the Medicaid managed care health plans (MCOs) operating in the state of Illinois, which includes: Aetna Better Health of Illinois, BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois, CountyCare Health Plan, Humana, Meridian Health and Molina Healthcare. As a member organization for the Medicaid managed care health plans, IAMHP works with the Illinois state government, legislators, advocacy groups and Medicaid patients to invest in and provide high-quality health care focused on cost-effective, individualized care that helps the residents of Illinois live longer and healthier lives.