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Bill signed into law expanding outpatient services for pregnant women

As Mississippi continues to face high infant and maternal mortality rates, new legislation that serves to combat the state’s staggering health statistics for babies and mothers has been signed into law.

After advancing in an overwhelming 117-5 vote by the House in late January, HB 539 cruised through the Senate in late February with just four dissenting votes and received a nod of approval by Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday.

The bill, authored by Rep. Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, qualifies women for ambulatory, or outpatient, prenatal services under Medicaid care for up to 60 days if their net family income does not exceed 194 percent of the federal poverty rate. Women seeking the expanded services will be required to show proof of pregnancy and documentation of monthly family income to a qualified health provider to become eligible.

Once the law goes into effect on July 1, the state’s division of Medicaid will be tasked with supplying healthcare providers with information on how to assist women in completing and filing forms requesting extended care. Those forms and applications are mandated to be made as simple as possible for expecting mothers to access and fill out.

“Pro-life is pro-child. Mississippi mothers need access to healthcare the moment they find out they are pregnant and this legislation will accomplish that,” Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said after the bill’s passage by the Senate. “We are thankful for the consistent leadership of Senators Kevin Blackwell and Nicole Boyd on critical women’s healthcare issues in our chamber.”

In 2022, the national infant mortality rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 5.60 deaths per 1,000 live births. Mississippi’s rate was a staggering 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. Mississippi also has a higher maternal mortality rate than the national average with 42.2 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births on a national scale.

The move by legislators works hand-in-hand with efforts to expand Medicaid coverage in the state and to require insurance companies to approve both urgent and non-urgent care within a designated timeframe.

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