By State Senator LaTonya Johnson
This month, North Carolina officially implemented it’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, becoming the 40th state to do so—and leaving Wisconsin as one of just 10 remaining states not to have done so. Here in the Midwest, it’s down to us and Kansas.
Expanding Medicaid here in Wisconsin would mean making care available to nearly 90,000 more low-income Wisconsinites. Expanding BadgerCare to cover more people would be a lifeline to so many—especially moms and babies.
Already, four out of every 10 births in Wisconsin are covered by Medicaid. The program makes it possible for moms and babies to receive the high-quality care they need at a critical time—because there is no time when it is more dangerous to be without health care than during and after pregnancy.
Over 1,000 people die from complications related to pregnancy every year in the United States—a rate that far exceeds other countries—with over half of the deaths occurring within the first year after birth. This alone is unconscionable, especially given that nearly every one of these deaths is preventable with comprehensive care before, during, and after pregnancy. The reality is even more staggering for Black women and women of color, who make up a disproportionate share of all pregnancy-related deaths.
In Wisconsin alone, Black women are five times likelier than white women to die from complications related to pregnancy.
That’s why President Biden, Governor Evers, and Democrats from Wisconsin to Washington are taking action to lower health care costs and ensure everyone has continuous access to high quality care so that we can prevent future pregnancy-related deaths. It’s been heartening to see Gov. Evers and President Biden continue to prioritize supporting women and babies, with special consideration for Black women and other women of color, by providing resources and health care to ensure that we have the best chance possible at leading healthy lives.
Together with Gov. Evers, my Democratic legislative colleagues and I have repeatedly called on our Republican counterparts to do the right thing for Wisconsin and take up Medicaid expansion. And every time, without fail, your Wisconsin Republican legislators reject affordable health care outright.
Medicaid expansion is critical to securing positive maternal health outcomes and giving women more control over their own bodies and future by expanding access to effective contraception. I know firsthand the importance of access to family planning care as it has been essential in breaking the cycle of teen pregnancy in my own family.
Expanding Medicaid like they did in North Carolina would mean taking advantage of funding available through the Affordable Care Act to cover more Wisconsinites under our state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare. We’d be able to cover folks with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $41,400 for a family of four in 2023, including thousands of new mothers every year. By increasing access to care before, during, and after pregnancy through Medicaid expansion, we can make real progress in supporting the health and well-being of mothers and children—and in so doing support the success and growth of our state.
Postpartum care is a matter of life and death. It’s past time for Wisconsin Republicans to get their priorities in order and pass Medicaid expansion.