GUIZERIX: Reeves, Legislature moving in right direction for Mississippi moms

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

I saw the news on Monday and Tuesday that Gov. Tate Reeves and the state House of Representatives are both working to advance legislation already passed by the Senate that would provide a full year of Medicaid coverage for Mississippi mothers after birth.

After reading the stories, I breathed a sigh of contemplative relief for women and babies in our state. Most anyone who’s spoken to me longer than five minutes knows my thoughts on giving birth in Mississippi and how terrifying an experience it can be.

Without going into the gory details of my own birth experience, I’ll sum it up so we can get to the heart of this issue: Never in my life have I felt more degraded, ignored and preyed upon than when I gave birth in a Mississippi hospital.

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I’m saying that as a white woman with a healthy pregnancy, whose baby was born with few complications and, most importantly for this discussion, full insurance coverage.

If you take away those modifiers of white, healthy, no complications and insured, you’d be looking at a good portion of the 60 percent of births Medicaid pays for in Mississippi. And the stats for successful births take a nose dive.

Mississippi has long been at the bottom of the heap in a variety of health indicators, and birth and postpartum are no exception. It seems as though, at least on this issue, our elected leaders are listening to Vicksburg’s Dan Edney’s pleas to lift Mississippi off the floor and improve residents’ quality of life.

It only took nearly a whole four-year term for Reeves and House Speaker Phillip Gunn to finally see the light here. Which, naturally, makes me pity their wives a little — if they took this long to decide on Medicaid for moms, how long does it take them to decide where to eat on date night?

Reeves last week stated his change, which he’s opposed for much of his term as governor, would be approved as part of Mississippi’s new “Pro-Life Agenda.” Surely, we haven’t forgotten a little case called Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health. 

The rationale behind Reeves’ statement makes sense. More babies will be born in Mississippi — I pointed that out in a June 2022 column. What I also pointed out, though, is that birth is only a blip on the radar of one’s lifetime. What will change the lives of Mississippi’s mothers and children is cultivating opportunities for improved quality of life.

Giving mothers on Medicaid a full year of coverage after birth is the first step to ensuring Mississippians have the tools necessary to climb the ladder of improvement. Consider it the first couple of rungs.

But these children grow up; they get older. I’m pleased with this first step for our state’s mothers and babies, but at some point, we have to ask: What comes next?