Support Iowa moms in need


By Barb Arland-Fye

Proposed legislation that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months for moms on Medicaid is pro-life legislation, and it appears to have the backing of both Democrats and Republicans. It also has the support of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice for Iowa’s bishops. We ought to join our voices in advocating for passage of this legislation that would help moms thrive so that their babies can thrive.

At present, Medicaid pays for more than four in 10 births and must cover pregnant women through 60 days postpartum. After that time, states can choose whether eligibility for Medicaid coverage continues, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation ( Iowa is one of the states that has not yet extended Medicaid coverage beyond 60 days postpartum. In 2021, of the 36,786 births in Iowa, Medicaid reimbursed 15,027 of those births. Ensuring good healthcare for moms in that first year after their baby’s birth is crucial to the well-being of both and our state.

Statistics make the case. Mortality and mental health issues are among the challenges postpartum moms face; moms who struggle to make ends meet face even greater hurdles. The 2021 Iowa Maternal Mortality Review Committee report states, “Maternal mortality is higher in the United States (U.S.) compared to any other developed nations.” Particularly sobering is the fact that “63.2% of pregnancy related deaths (in 2018) were preventable” (Report from Nine Maternal Mortality Review Committees).


Couple the maternal mortality report with the Iowa Maternal Health Strategic Plan for 2021, which states, “Mental health conditions are the most common complication of childbirth impacting 1 in 5 individuals during pregnancy and the year following pregnancy. Untreated maternal mental health conditions can have (a) negative and long-term impact on (a) pregnant and postpartum (woman) and her infant.” Among the strategic plan’s recommendations is extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.

The strategic plan’s recommendation adds strength to the argument for passage of legislation that, in turn, would strengthen the Iowa MOMs program (More Options for Maternal Supports) the Iowa Legislature passed last year. That program provided $500,000 to help pro-life agencies support pregnant women and new moms with baby essentials and counseling. However, funding was not included for the expansion of coverage for mothers who receive Medicaid, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) reported.

Efforts are underway to convince Iowa lawmakers to pass this legislation, ICC Executive Director Tom Chapman says. Both Senate File 57, which all Senate Democrats co-sponsored, and House Study Bill 226, which State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican, introduced, would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to moms on Medicaid.

HSB 226 instructs the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to submit a Medicaid state plan amendment to the federal government for approval to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum Medicaid coverage to pregnant women enrolled in the Medicaid program in accordance with the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The state’s general fund would allocate expenditures of $5.6 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year and $8.87 million for the 2024-25 fiscal year to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.

This is where our advocacy efforts can bear fruit to ensure that moms in need receive an extension on postpartum Medicaid coverage, STAT! Contact members of the Iowa Legislature’s Joint Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee ( and ask them to move forward with legislation to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to moms on Medicaid. Contact Gov. Kim Reynolds as well ( Also, visit the ICC website, which will provide updates and action alerts.

Last July, Archbishop William Lori, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Activities, called for building “a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world.” He was responding to President Biden’s executive order on abortion access ( Extending postpartum Medicaid in Iowa supports this call.

As early childhood educator Jeni Van Buer of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville says, a child living with a healthy and thriving parent will have a greater opportunity for overall health and developmental success.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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