- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Biden administration said Thursday the Medicaid program in New Jersey will cover postpartum needs for new mothers for a full year instead of 60 days — a major change five days before New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy stands for reelection.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the move, which is estimated to impact 9,000 moms per year, with New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy.

Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, holds a lead of 6 to 11 percentage points over GOP opponent Jack Ciattarelli — depending on the poll — in the governor’s race. New Jersey Democrats have not been able to win a second gubernatorial term since 1977.

The Medicaid program is jointly run by the federal government and the states and covers nearly half of all births in the U.S.

Federal law requires post-delivery coverage for mothers to last for 60 days, but the states are able to extend coverage through various avenues.

The federal government previously approved waivers for Missouri, Illinois and Georgia to expand postpartum benefits in some form, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

A part of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus relief package provided a new option and federal matching funds for states to amend their programs and provide full Medicaid benefits to new moms for up to a year.

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, lavished praise on Mr. Murphy during a media call, saying the governor made postpartum health care “a top priority of his administration.”

Mrs. Murphy pointed to equity issues, noting that Black mothers are more likely to die from birth-related health complications than White mothers.

“There is also growing recognition that the postpartum period extends far beyond 60 days,” according to a KFF postpartum-care tracker. “Many of the conditions that account for a significant share of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity, such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and depression often require care over a longer-term.”

Earlier this week, President Biden visited a New Jersey school and a transit hub outside Newark to promote a “Build Back Better” agenda that would expand universal pre-kindergarten and make major investments in physical infrastructure.

Though an official visit, Mr. Biden’s presence offered the governor the chance to highlight transportation initiatives alongside national Democrats that will help Hudson River commuters.

On Thursday, Mr. Murphy congratulated Mr. Biden for landing on a framework for his economic agenda to be written into legislation.

“Quite simply, this plan is nothing short of transformative, and it will be achieved not on the backs of middle-class taxpayers but by asking the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share,” the governor said.

However, Mr. Murphy said he would push to lift the so-called “SALT deduction” cap in the final bill.

The GOP tax overhaul in 2017 capped the amount of state and local taxes that relatively wealthy people in high-tax states could deduct on their federal returns, angering New Jersey residents and lawmakers.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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