New mothers relying on TennCare and Children’s Health Insurance Program are now covered through the first year after their child’s birth, including dental coverage, up from 60 days. On May 6, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the expansion in both Tennessee and South Carolina.
The state of Tennessee had already secured a 10-year TennCare renewal in January 2021, part of which was expanding postpartum coverage to one year for TennCare users. The effective date for that expansion was April 1 of this year. The income threshold to qualify for TennCare is higher for pregnant mothers, and in the past, they may have lost coverage after those 60 days when the lower typical TennCare income limit went into effect.
The Division of TennCare then went back and applied on March 14 to give the same coverage to those on CHIP, a smaller federally sponsored insurance program reserved for pregnant mothers and children with a higher income limit than that of TennCare. In Tennessee, CHIP is known as CoverKids. The CHIP expansion went into effect in the state April 1, though an approval letter from CMS was dated May 6.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra applauded Tennessee and South Carolina for taking the opportunity to expand postpartum coverage using money from the American Rescue Plan. The two states join five others — Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey and Illinois — in tapping into the additional funds.
Medicaid, operated under the TennCare name in Tennessee, covers 42 percent of births nationally, according to HHS.
“The first year after birth is a vulnerable time, and thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we are able to work with states to provide families enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program 12 months of postpartum coverage,” Becerra said in a release. “I applaud Tennessee and South Carolina for joining our efforts to support healthy parents and babies, and urge all remaining states to work with us in expanding access to this critical care.
The announcement comes on the heels of the release of a draft US Supreme Court decision which could spell the end of Roe v. Wade‘s protection of abortion rights. Tennessee is one of 13 states with a trigger lawwhich would outlaw abortion almost entirely and go into effect 30 days after Roe v. Wade is overturned, perhaps as soon as this summer.
Gov. Bill Lee has been consistent in backing anti-abortion legislation, and he cited the expanded postpartum coverage when responding to news of the Roe v. Wade leak.
“It’s important that we recognize that women in crisis need support and assistance through this process,” Lee said. “For example, that’s why we’ve expanded our postpartum coverage for women in TennCare.”
At present, there is no year-long limit to postpartum care under TennCare and CHIP because of the federal public health emergency declaration. The emergency status prevents the public insurance programs from dropping users due to ineligibility or failure to recertify. When the declaration ends, expected this summer, many will be dropped from the roll, which could cause an estimated 300,000 people in Tennessee to lose health coverage.