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Bill expanding Medicaid for pregnant women passes in House

The House of Delegates on Friday passed a bill expanding health care coverage to low-income pregnant women.

Senate Bill 546 passed in the House with a 97-3 vote. Delegates Tom Fast, R-Fayette; Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock; and Marshall Wilson, R- Berkeley, voted against the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, expands Medicaid to cover pregnant women in households that make up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover women who earn between 185 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

CHIP coverage for pregnant women would include prenatal care, delivery and 60 days postpartum care.

For a family of four, 185 percent of the federal poverty line would be approximately $48,000 and 300 percent would be about $78,000.

Renate Pore, a health care consultant, said she’s been trying to get the Medicaid program expanded for pregnant women for at least the past three or four years. She noticed in hospital discharge data there were pregnant women who were showing up at hospitals with no insurance or source of payment.

“I realized that we really weren’t covering all women and that we needed to do something,” Pore said. “So it was really complicated to figure it all out. And then we had some other glitches. But this year all the stars kind of aligned, I think, and made it happen.

“So I’m very, very happy that we got this done.”

The bill also had strong support in the Senate, which passed it 34-0.

Earlier this session, lawmakers considered a bill that would have imposed work requirements on Medicaid recipients. That bill died when the House Rules Committee took it off its active calendar.

Seth DiStefano, of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, who lobbied for Senate Bill 564, said its passage is an indication of the positive impact Medicaid expansion has had on West Virginia.

“No one can argue that the expansion of Medicaid has been anything but phenomenally successful,” he said. “Everybody, including members of the state Legislature, know somebody personally that Medicaid has made a positive impact in their life. So I think that really was central to work requirements going down and this bill moving to the front of the class.”

Sally Roberts Wilson, who also lobbied for the bill, said it would affect about 800 expectant mothers who “fall through the cracks.” The mothers currently make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford health care coverage.

Roberts Wilson said the bill had broad support among Democrats and Republicans, and those who oppose abortion and those who are pro-choice.

Reach Lori Kersey at

lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1240 or follow

@LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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