Texas lawmakers are close to the finish line with a bill that will have a major impact on low-income Texas mothers. It’s bipartisan legislation that will extend Medicaid from three months of postpartum care to 12 months.
But there’s a snag in the bill, and time is running out to fix it. An amendment added by the Senate on Sunday could threaten federal approval of the additional nine months of care.
This is a repeat of a mistake that the Legislature made last session. The federal government rejected it then because lawmakers included an ambiguous provision similar to the one added this session that excludes those whose pregnancy ended with an abortion.
The language states that care will be provided for “mothers whose pregnancies end in the delivery of the child or end in natural loss of the child” and not those whose pregnancies ended “through elective abortion.”
The Senate’s intention may be to discourage elective abortion, but its effect is far more likely to be the denial of care for scores of women in our state. We agree with Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, who says adding the language is too much of a gamble.
“In the meantime, the entire program is vulnerable to not being approved by [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid] precisely because of this language,” Johnson said.
We fear that the bill sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, has acceded to partisan politics. Kolkhorst has said that the amendment is the only way to get the bill through the Senate chamber.
Senators, please reconsider. Words are important. This legislation will preserve the life of mothers who, without the coverage, might become another one of Texas’ abysmal maternal mortality or morbidity statistics.
Texas has instituted a near-total ban on abortion; adding this sentence is unnecessary. And refusing to pass the bill without it is reckless.
What a shame it would be to pass legislation that would make a real difference in the lives of Texas families, only to see it fail to get approval because of one unnecessary sentence.
There is too much at stake to inject politics into this legislative decision.
Millions of Texans are about to lose Medicaid coverage that was extended to them during the pandemic. We need to ensure that Texas moms can still get the medical care they need that will no longer be covered under the pandemic extension.
To lawmakers in committee, we urge you to take the amendment out and send the bill quickly to the governor’s desk.
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