mother and baby

CHICAGO, IL — Illinois has become the first state in the nation to extend full Medicaid benefits to mothers from 60 days to 12 months after they give birth. 

Gov. JB Pritzker says the extension to 12 months will strengthen continuity of care to improve health outcomes for new mothers in Illinois and is aimed at reducing the rate of maternal deaths, including significant health disparities for Black women during the postpartum period. 

“Every mother in Illinois deserves access to quality healthcare following the birth of a child, regardless of their income level,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m proud to announce Illinois is now the first state in the nation to offer eligible mothers 12 months of postpartum care coverage through Medicaid. This coverage expansion will further my administration’s work to reduce health disparities in communities across the state and improve maternal health outcomes for women of color.”

The extension includes all mothers with incomes up to 208% of the federal poverty level (FPL), which is a significant increase in coverage from the standard 60-day period.

Current Medicaid postpartum coverage is 60 days for women with incomes up to 208% of the federal poverty level. Beyond that point, only women who fall under the 138% FPL can continue their coverage. 

The state followed the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approval of Illinois' 1115 waiver allowing for the extension.

Without the newly approved waiver, women who earn between the 139% and 208% FPL would be left uncovered if they happened to develop a serious pregnancy-related illness beyond the three months of initial coverage and haven't enrolled in new coverage yet. 

And women who have enrolled in new coverage might have to find new in-network doctors who are not familiar with their medical history. 

“We know that a significant share of pregnancy-associated deaths are preventable, and in 2021, mothers should absolutely not be dying from preventable causes after they give birth,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “Extending Medicaid benefits to mothers for 12 months postpartum is a critical step toward reducing the maternal morbidity and mortality rate.”

The governor cites research that shows disruptions in Medicaid coverage are common and often lead to periods of lack of insurance, delayed care, and less preventive care for beneficiaries. 

“Providing Medicaid benefits to mothers for 12 months postpartum is vital to ensuring women have the care they need not just during pregnancy, but after,” said State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Chicago). “Illinois continues to be a leader in women’s healthcare, and I’m grateful to our federal partners for their approval of this waiver.”

The extension of the same coverage will help mothers manage not only chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes, but also provides access to behavioral health and other mental health care services. 

The extension was recommended back in October 2018 in an Illinois Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report, developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

The report found that Non-Hispanic Black women are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition as non-Hispanic white women. IDPH also reports that poor continuity of care and a lack of care coordination factor into the 93% of preventable pregnancy-related deaths during the late postpartum period (61 through 364 days after giving birth). 

In 2019, Gov. Pritzker signed a bill into law making the change from 60 days to 12 months, and the state formally applied from the waiver from federal CMS later that year.