Barnes: Victory for Maternal Health in Texas – Celebrating a Year of Postpartum Medicaid Coverage 

EHF's Dr. Ann Barnes says that Texas has made a groundbreaking stride for maternal health, but there's more work to be done.
Picture of Dr. Ann Barnes

Dr. Ann Barnes

President and CEO, Episcopal Health Foundation

In January, Texas made a groundbreaking stride for maternal health. The federal government approved the state’s plan to extend Medicaid health insurance coverage to new moms with lower incomes for a full year postpartum. This isn’t just a policy shift—it’s a lifesaver for Texas moms in need. It’s also a great example of how collaboration between health advocates, state legislators, and community leaders is pivotal in creating systemic changes to the health and health care landscape across the state.   

Medicaid covers nearly half of all births in Texas. Before this change, Medicaid health insurance benefits for moms were limited to just 60 days postpartum. Starting in March, Texas mothers can now count on one year of essential access to health and health care services. This policy change ensures that mothers will receive the critical health care they need during the most vulnerable period after childbirth. This policy is also a testament to the power of persistent advocacy and bipartisan legislation. 

At Episcopal Health Foundation, we believe in championing health equity by expanding access to care AND addressing the non-medical drivers of health. These are the conditions and factors outside the doctor’s office that impact health outcomes for all Texans – especially for those who face the most barriers to good health. Both pillars are critical to create true health equity for all communities. That’s why we’ve continually advocated for expanding affordable health insurance in Texas and strengthening the role of Medicaid and other health insurance plans in covering critical non-medical services that improve health.  

The urgency of addressing the state’s maternal health crisis is underscored by the grim reality that Black women in Texas are twice as likely as White women and four times as likely as Hispanic women to die from pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a disparity that has persisted for the past decade. Additionally, this extended Medicaid coverage is a critical step to full expansion of affordable health insurance  especially in serving communities – including Black mothers – who are disproportionately affected by health inequities. 

Even with this important policy change, the fight for full coverage expansion is far from over. Texas is among the last 10 states in the U.S. not to expand Medicaid health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.   

Episcopal Health Foundation’s latest statewide poll found that 7 in 10 Texans skipped or postponed medical care due to costs—the highest percentage in five years. That same annual poll has consistently found that a large majority of Texans (72%) support Medicaid expansion to provide health insurance to potentially 1 million+ Texans with lower incomes who are uninsured.  

For now, we celebrate this groundbreaking win for maternal health. Guaranteeing access to care is one of the most impactful ways to help new mothers and their children. This extension will prevent deaths at a time when new mothers are still at risk and ensure more equitable health outcomes across the state.  

It’s one important step for a healthier future for mothers and children across Texas.