The head of Mississippi Medicaid and the CEO of Memorial Health System reportedly delayed attempts to decide on the implementation of a policy that would make it easier for impoverished mothers to access timely healthcare. The policy, known as presumptive eligibility, would allow pregnant women to receive healthcare even if they are not on Medicaid, assuming that they qualify. Despite delays, lawmakers have stated they will move forward with presumptive eligibility, with research showing it could positively impact perinatal health and that it has been effective in states with expanded Medicaid.
Mississippi Medicaid Delays Policy Decision Beneficial to Expectant Mothers
Mississippi Medicaid leadership requested additional time to examine a policy facilitating easier access to healthcare for impoverished mothers, delaying the Medical Care Advisory Committee’s decision. Despite promising a meeting in January, no such meeting has occurred. Both the committee and agency have known about the policy, named ‘presumptive eligibility for pregnant women’, for an extended period.
State Medicaid Director Drew Snyder and CEO of Memorial Health System, Kent Nicaud, opposed a decision recommending pregnancy presumptive eligibility at the Committee’s December session. The policy enables access to healthcare for pregnant women, presuming qualification for Medicaid. Most births in Mississippi are covered by Medicaid.
As per Mississippi Medicaid, one can qualify by confirming pregnancy. But many healthcare professionals and expecting mothers believe a positive pregnancy test from a provider is necessary. Some doctors refuse patients without insurance, causing those with pending Medicaid applications to pay upfront.
The influential Mississippi Medical Care Advisory Committee consisting of 11 appointments by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House, advises the Medicaid Division. It was instrumental in extending postpartum Medicaid coverage at the legislature’s recommendation.
In the committee’s December meeting, doctors presented research illustrating the positive impact of presumptive eligibility on perinatal health in Mississippi. The latest maternal mortality report shows Mississippi is still dangerous for birthing mothers. It’s one of three states without Medicaid expansion or presumptive eligibility for pregnant women. Preterm births are less likely for low-income individuals in states with expanded Medicaid and presumptive eligibility.
However, Snyder requested additional time to review the policy. Nicaud, one of Governor Reeves’ top donors, recommended a meeting in January to discuss the matter.
Documents reveal that the Division of Medicaid had ample time to study the policy’s implications. Rep. Missy McGee reached out to officials in August 2023, stating her belief in the policy’s benefits and requesting the committee’s opinion. McGee recently introduced legislation to establish pregnancy presumptive eligibility, expressing optimism about its support in the Mississippi House.
Dr. Anita Henderson previously presented the policy’s benefits to committee members in 2022 and 2023. The Mississippi State Department of Health recommended the policy’s approval in a report released in January 2023.
However, it’s unclear whether Medicaid can independently establish presumptive eligibility or if it requires legislative action. Snyder previously stated that Medicaid wouldn’t use the policy unless directed by the legislature.
The committee’s next meeting is unscheduled as the current board members’ terms ended earlier this year. Spokesperson Matt Westerfield stated that the Division of Medicaid will arrange the next meeting once new appointments are made, though it’s uncertain when that will occur.