Members of the Alaska State House vote 35-3 to pass a bill Wednesday expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers to 12 months instead of 60 days. The Senate has already passed the bill, but must concur with House changes before it is sent to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who introduced the bill. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Extended Medicaid coverage for new moms passes House

Bill providing one year of care is a proceedural step from being sent to Gov. Mike Dunleavy

A bill expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers to 12 months instead of 60 days passed the Alaska State House by an overwhelming margin Wednesday, putting it one procedural step from being sent to Gov. Mike Dunleavy who introduced the proposed law.

Senate Bill 58 is based on a federal policy implemented at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that allowed states to provide postpartum coverage for up to 12 months. Originally set to expire in 2027, a federal change in 2023 allows states to make the extension permanent.

“Fifty-one percent of new mothers fall under the category of this bill currently,” said Rep. Will Stapp, a Fairbanks Republican who carried the bill in the House, including sponsoring a committee amendment that expanded eligibility. “When mothers are covered by health insurance we see a 25% increase in child wellness. That looks to increase with the passage of this bill.”

He said state figures show 88% of pregnancy deaths during the past five years were “potentially preventable” if quality health care had been available.

“Keep in mind over the last few years Alaska has seen an alarming increase in mortality rates for pregnant women,” Stapp said. “This is particularly true in rural Alaska.”

The bill passed by a 35-3 vote, with Reps. Sarah Vance of Homer, David Eastman of Wasilla and Ben Carpenter of Nikiski voting no. The three are among the most conservative Republicans in the House.

The Senate, which passed the bill unanimously April 19, must concur with changes made by the House before it is transmitted to the governor. The changes include raising eligibility for pregnant women to 225% of the state poverty line instead of 200%, and expanding eligibility for some categories of people such as those with disabilities or in a care facility who might otherwise be excluded.

The extension will add a complication for the state’s Division of Public Assistance, which is reviewing the Medicaid eligibility of all Alaska residents during a one-year period that begin April 1. Such reviews were put on hold by the federal government for three years due to the pandemic.

The division is also trying to cope with staffing shortages and outdated equipment that have caused problems with its assistance programs, most notably a backlog in processing food stamp applications that dates back to last September.

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 8

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Capital Transit buses stop at the Valley Transit Center on Thursday. Two bus routes serving areas of the Mendenhall Valley and near the airport will temporarily be discontinued starting April 22 due to lack of staff. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Capital Transit temporarily suspending two Mendenhall Valley routes due to shortage of drivers

Officials hope to fix situation by July; extra tourist buses also scaled back due to fleet shortage.

A fenced lot proposed as a campsite for people experiencing homelessness located next to the city’s cold weather emergency shelter, in the background, is also next door to a businesses where extensive construction is scheduled, thus prompting city leaders to rethink the proposal. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
Indefinite ‘dispersed camping’ for homeless proposed by city leaders due to lack of suitable campsite

Proposed Rock Dump site is next to long-term construction, more costly than expected, report states.

Most Read