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Letter to the Editor: Postpartum care key to a healthier Missouri

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[Editor’s note: Postpartum Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage in Missouri expanded to 12 months from 60 days on Nov. 14. Missouri was the 40th state approved for extended coverage, according to a news release from the U.S. Deparment of Health and Human Services. Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation into law in July that paved the way for the expanded coverage.]

With the complexities of passing meaningful reform, it is not uncommon for substantive health care legislation to face hurdles. Our legislature is made up of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Being able to use my knowledge of the health care industry to advance significant reforms has been the highlight of my career as a state representative so far. Missouri’s recognition of the pressing need to enhance postpartum care for mothers marks a profound milestone in the state’s pursuit of better maternal health outcomes.

The journey of childbirth is an awe-inspiring experience, a tapestry woven with the threads of hope and new beginnings. But this journey does not culminate with the arrival of a newborn; it marks the commencement of a crucial phase – the postpartum period. This transformative time is characterized by significant physical and emotional changes, necessitating comprehensive care and support for new mothers. Tragically, postpartum care has long been overshadowed, with prenatal and delivery care often stealing the spotlight. This neglect comes at a steep cost, with far-reaching consequences affecting maternal health, newborn well-being and family dynamics. Without proper care and support during this critical phase, new mothers can face enduring physical and mental health issues, strained relationships and heightened vulnerability to postpartum complications.

As we embarked on the latest legislative session, it became evident that the time had come for our state to finally address the postpartum care crisis. Missouri’s ranking of 44th in the nation for maternal mortality rates was a stark reminder of the urgency to act. Year after year, dedicated legislators filed various bills aimed at extending postpartum care. However, it wasn’t until this year that we were able to get meaningful, bipartisan legislation passed.

As the house bill sponsor and the senate bill handler, I devoted much of this legislation session to highlighting the keys to curbing maternal mortality and working to grant mothers access to comprehensive health care. With the passage of the postpartum bill, Missouri took a resolute stand for life, mothers and families, making significant strides towards a healthier and more compassionate society.

Postpartum care should never be an afterthought; it must be a fundamental pillar of our health care system. By recognizing the unique challenges faced by new mothers and prioritizing their well-being, we can foster healthier families and build stronger communities. The time has come to shift the narrative, to amplify the voices calling for change and to ensure that every new mother receives the care and support necessary to thrive.

Missouri’s dedication to improving postpartum care signifies a commitment to the health and happiness of its citizens, an investment in the future of families and a testament to the state’s unwavering support of expecting mothers.

With final approval now in place, let us unite as Missourians in celebrating this huge step forward, recognizing that by caring for new mothers during their postpartum journey, we are sowing the seeds of a healthier and more family-friendly Missouri for generations to come.

—Rep. Melanie Stinnett, R-Springfield

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