Anita S. Henderson, MD, advocates for SB 2212

For several years, Hattiesburg Clinic Pediatrician Anita S. Henderson, MD, has advocated for SB 2212, which would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months in Mississippi.

On March 16, 2023, Henderson’s advocacy efforts finally paid off as Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill into law, providing new moms a year of postpartum Medicaid coverage starting July 1, 2023.

The extension of coverage covers the first year of childhood, which Henderson explained is a crucial developmental stage for babies.

“A baby’s brain doubles in size in the first year of life, so that’s the time when they most need that interaction,” Dr. Henderson said. “Babies who are talked to and read to have better language skills going into kindergarten. Talking, reading, singing, and interacting is critical during that first year, but mothers who are sick, depressed, or have chronic medical conditions are less likely to be able to interact and care for their baby in the best manner possible.”

Henderson continued to explain how extending health care coverage to 12 months helps create the “welcome mat” effect, so in addition to moms seeking care, it also helps improve the likelihood that they will continue to seek care for their children.

Before the new law goes into effect, Henderson said the word must get out to ob-gyns, family physicians, pediatricians and mothers that coverage has been extended.

“This is something new,” Henderson said. “So, we will have to educate, advocate, and explain it to our mothers who previously had babies, but did not have this benefit.”

“Now that we passed postpartum care, we need to make sure that it’s being implemented and used in the right manner to improve outcomes,” Henderson added.

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Dr. Anita Henderson, past president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, calls for the legislature’s support of extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months, during a news conference at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)