Friday, December 16, 2022

Opinion: montana physicians express gratitude to governor gianforte for supporting families in proposed biennium budget

Montana physicians, including pediatricians, obstetricians, gynecologists, and family physicians, can find our specialties overlap significantly during one crucial period: the first year postpartum, when the new mothers and infants in our care need comprehensive support and access to quality health care.

Mothers face a heightened risk of potential health issues during the postpartum period, including maternal depression, substance use disorder (SUD), and serious physical health problems. It is vital that mothers do not face interruptions in their access to health care during this critical health window – such coverage gaps endanger the health and lives of our patients and present dire consequences to the health of children and families.

Fortunately, to address these issues, Governor Gianforte’s budget for Montana’s next biennium includes a welcome addition: the extension of Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum, a vast improvement over the current 60-day coverage window offered to many women enrolled in Medicaid. In doing so, Montana will join 26 other states that have put families first by extending postpartum Medicaid coverage. This policy will help young Montana moms and babies when they most need it and keep Montanans’ tax money in the state.

This victory for families across the state comes as Montana finds itself a tragic outlier in maternal health.

One in six Montana mothers have experienced depressive symptoms postpartum, significantly greater than the average of one in eight mothers nationwide. In addition to being debilitating to their own mental health, postpartum depression also profoundly affects child health, including their brain development and risk of later mental health problems. When mothers receive care for their depression, they experience decreased psychiatric symptoms, and children see improvements in disorders and are at a decreased risk of experiencing child abuse and neglect. To care for maternal depression means to keep families healthy and together. Medicaid is a strong lever to ensure that new mothers can access this critical care, regardless of their income level.

Continuing Medicaid coverage postpartum also ensures that new mothers with substance use disorders can access treatment when the risk for overdose is highest. Yet for many mothers covered by Medicaid, their coverage will expire long before entering the window of highest risk. Helping mothers recover from SUD is a vital priority to help keep Montanan families whole.

New mothers also experience a heightened risk of serious physical health conditions, including cardiovascular and hypertensive conditions, and other chronic conditions unrelated to pregnancy. Even when these conditions are not fatal, they have serious consequences for families, impacting a mother’s ability to bond with and care for her child, affecting family financial security, and presenting similar adverse effects on child health.

These facts on the importance of supporting postpartum health are not just backed up by rigorous scientific research; we see the effects of these health disparities play out in our clinics every day.

Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months is estimated to provide coverage to 2,000 more mothers annually in Montana. When these women – our patients, neighbors, family, and friends – can access primary care during the critical latter half of the postpartum year, they can receive lifesaving preventive treatment. We are grateful to Governor Gianforte for championing the health of Montana women, children, and families by ensuring coverage during that period.

As medical professionals dedicated to the health of children, women, and families across the state, we applaud the governor’s decision to invest in the next generation of Montanans and ask our elected legislative leaders to support this lifesaving investment and provide these families with a healthy start. 


-Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

-Montana Medical Association

-Montana Academy of Family Physicians

-Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine

-American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists