One man blocking expanded medical coverage for thousands of new moms: Robin Vos | Opinion

Maternal mortality rates are getting worse across the country despite 80% of pregnancy-related deaths being preventable

Kristin Brey
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When it comes to Wisconsin legislation, we hear about a lot of votes on bills that are divided down party lines. Thus, when there is a bill that passes in the State Senate 32-1 and that same bill has 58 co-sponsors in the Assembly, you'd think that it would be a cake walk to get it to Gov. Tony Evers desk for him to sign.

You'd think.

But, for that to happen, the Speaker of the Assembly would have to allow that bill to be voted on by the Assembly. And when it comes to expanding Medicaid coverage for new moms from 60 days to a year, it seems as though Robin Vos does not care how much bipartisan support there is for it because he has yet to schedule a vote for SB 110.

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It's not only supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, it is also supported by a wide variety of organizations across the state including the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society,  Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Ascension Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin, Pro-Life Wisconsin and Kids Forward, according to the WI Lobbying website.

It's also a popular policy nationally. Wisconsin is also only one of four states that have not expanded Medicaid and don’t have plans to expand it, according to the KFF Medicaid Postpartum Coverage Extension Tracker.

The reason it has so much support is because maternal mortality rates are getting worse across the country despite 80% of pregnancy-related deaths being preventable. In Wisconsin, almost half of pregnancy related care is provided through Medicaid (BadgerCare) and since half of maternal deaths occur in the year after a woman gives birth, expanding Medicaid postpartum coverage could literally save lives.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos: We give away too much free stuff

Last summer, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos explained his opposition to extending Medicaid coverage for postpartum women during a Q&A with Wisconsin Health News where he said, “We give away too much free stuff." He went on to say that those who lose coverage after 60 days can enroll in a plan from HealthCare.gov, demonstrating his inexperience with what it is like to prioritize your own health when taking care of a newborn.

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As a new mom myself, you know what I absolutely did not have bandwidth to do 60 days after giving birth? Navigating the American health insurance system and finding a new in-network doctor to start over with. Two months postpartum, I was just happy when I prioritized a shower.

Kristin Brey is the "My Take" columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.