Simply put, children do well when their parents and caregivers do well, and ensuring pregnant and postpartum people have accessible and responsive maternal health care is crucial for family well-being. State Senator Janet Buckner and Representative Leslie Herod are leading an innovative birth equity bill package in Colorado, complementing the federal Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, designed to address racial inequities and other disparities in maternal and infant outcomes. SB21-194 Maternal Health Providers, one of the bills in the package, includes numerous provisions to enhance Colorado’s infrastructure to support all families  thriving during the perinatal period, including an extension of Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum.

Extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum will ensure that even more postpartum Coloradoans have access to healthcare during a formative time. Access to concrete supports-including health care throughout the perinatal period–is research-based protective factor that lowers the risk of child abuse and neglect and a key way to offer families a strong start by ensuring they receive the basic necessities everyone deserves in order to grow.

The American Recovery Plan provides funding for states to opt-in and extend Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum. Medicaid currently covers up to 60 days after birth, although the most recent Colorado Maternal Mortality Prevention Program Legislative Report 2014–2016 indicates the second highest ratio of maternal deaths per day was during the six weeks to one year period. Of the 94 maternal deaths reviewed by the MMRC during 2014–2016, the majority (76.6%) were preventable—meaning we can change the course of peoples’ lives by investing in prevention.

SB21-194 addresses racial inequities and other disparities in infant and maternal care directly. Other sections of this bill and of the birth equity bill package work in tandem with this extension in order to ensure pregnant and postpartum people have pathways for and recourse around the quality of service delivery and coordination they receive—which strengthens our systems so that care is designed both to preserve the dignity of pregnant and parenting people and to promote their and their family’s healthy development, resilience, and ability to advocate for and receive the resources they need. By strengthening our infrastructure for all families to thrive during the perinatal period, especially for families of color, Indigenous families, undocumented families, people who are low-income and people with disabilities, we can keep the well-being of our state’s children and families an urgent and high priority.

The first hearing on SB21-194 is April 14th at 1:30pm in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and comes during Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), a week of awareness, activism, and community building founded and led by the Black Mama’s Matter Alliance.

To learn more about the birth equity bill package and related advocacy opportunities, visit Elephant Circle’s webpage. Thank you to state leaders at Elephant Circle, COLOR, Raise Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, Children’s Campaign and more for advancing and supporting this bill package.

Engage in National Black Maternal Health Week

  • Check out Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s toolkit, virtual conference, and more.
  • Read the Diverse Colorado Voices: Community-Based Solutions for the Perinatal Period Report. This report, authored by Kayla Frawley, Holley Murphy, Lynn Vanderwielen and more  implores us all to approach birth equity efforts with a collaborative, anti-racist mindset in partnership and allyship with community members most impacted by health disparities.
  • Attend a virtual documentary screening this Friday, April 16th, 12-1pm MT: CPCQC Presents “Community Voices.” Register here. The infant mortality rate in Colorado is one of the lowest in the nation, so why is the death rate for Black babies over twice that of white babies? This short documentary depicts the experiences of the healthcare system by Black women in our community. The Addressing Infant and Maternal Mortality (AIMM) Medical Student Group at the CU School of Medicine will screen the film and facilitate a post-screening discussion about racism in the healthcare system.

Review the 2021 Policy Agenda

Download the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda and use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills this session related to strengthening families.

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