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Mississippi Today

New law allows low-income pregnant women to receive prenatal care earlier

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mississippitoday.org – Sophia Paffenroth – 2024-05-23 06:00:00

Low-income pregnant women can access timely prenatal care regardless of their Medicaid application status thanks to legislation passed by lawmakers this year.

The change brings Mississippi in line with 29 other states and Washington, D.C. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has long championed the practice for its ability to improve maternal outcomes.

“Presumptive eligibility simply removes some of the red tape so that individuals can have immediate access to this coverage, especially women of color who are disproportionately affected by coverage disruptions,” explained Taylor Platt, senior manager of health policy at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

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The law, which will be effective July 1, allows pregnant women whose household income is at or below 194% of the federal poverty level – about $29,000 annually for an individual – to be presumed eligible for Medicaid and receive 60 days of coverage for outpatient care while their applications for Medicaid coverage are being processed. 

Without presumptive eligibility, Medicaid-eligible pregnant women are forced to go without care or pay out of pocket during this interim period. 

Pregnancy presumptive eligibility makes the largest difference in states that have not expanded Medicaid, explained Usha Ranji, the associate director of women's policy at KFF. That's because in states with expansion, the majority of income-eligible women are already on Medicaid and aren't subject to this no-coverage interim period. 

“There are a lot of people who are uninsured (in Mississippi) and who will only qualify for Medicaid once they become pregnant,” Ranji said. “Not surprisingly, people in expansion states tend to have had coverage for a longer period before the pregnancy.”

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Before passing House Bill 539, Mississippi was one of only three states with neither pregnancy presumptive eligibility or Medicaid expansion. 

Medicaid eligibility is restrictive in Mississippi. In addition to falling below an income threshold, must belong to one of three categories to qualify for Medicaid: parenting, pregnant or disabled. After months of negotiations, a bill that would expand Medicaid in Mississippi died late in the session this year.

First-time mothers only become eligible for Medicaid once they become pregnant, meaning their application processing time can cut well into their first trimester. Applications for pregnancy Medicaid can take up to 45 days to be approved, according to the Division of Medicaid.

Medicaid funds more than two-thirds of births in Mississippi, the with the second highest rate of births financed by Medicaid in the country.

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If everyone eligible for presumptive eligibility took advantage of it, the policy could affect tens of thousands of pregnant women. 

“Medicaid is an important player in the state's maternal health ,” Ranji said. “… Presumptive eligibility could really help a lot of people in the state.”

Early prenatal care has been proven to mitigate a number of pregnancy-related problems hypertension – the leading cause of maternal mortality in Mississippi and across the country.

“You may miss infections that could be easily treated early but now have gone untreated, that can lead to increased complications during your pregnancy, or you may have health conditions that need to be addressed early,” explained Dr. Charlene Collier, a member of the Mississippi Maternal Mortality Committee and a -area OB-GYN. “Even more dangerous, there could be an ectopic pregnancy or an abnormal pregnancy that can lead to serious risk to yourself.”

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Last year, the passed a bill to guarantee Mississippi mothers care for 12 months postpartum. Now, along with presumptive eligibility, low-income pregnant women should receive care from the start of their pregnancy through one year postpartum. Experts hope these policies will not only help maternal and infant mortality rates but also health disparities. 

People of color are disproportionately subject to discontinuous coverage, according to a 2020 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, with nearly half of all Black women experiencing disruptions in insurance coverage from pre-pregnancy to postpartum. 

Rep. Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, in talks regarding Medicaid expansion during a public meeting at the state Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2023. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

House Medicaid Chair Missy McGee, a Republican from Hattiesburg, authored the bill. She said the policy is a no-brainer in a state boasting some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. 

The Division of Medicaid estimates that presumptive eligibility will cost the state $567,000 annually, which McGee says is “a minimal investment for a tremendous benefit to women in our state.”

That cost includes medical services and overhead for women initially presumed eligible but later determined ineligible. will be reimbursed for any prenatal care they to pregnant women who they deem eligible for Medicaid according to income.

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Not all doctors will choose to participate, explained Matt Westerfield, spokesperson for the Division, but those who do will receive training from the agency to help them make eligibility determinations.

Providing presumptive eligibility for the thousands of pregnant women on Medicaid in the state will cost roughly half as much as it costs the state to pay for just one infant's prolonged stay in a neonatal intensive care unit – which can easily top $1 million, according to a study published in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics. 

Mississippi has the highest rate of preterm births in the country.

It's an example of how fronting a small amount of money for preventative care can save the state millions of dollars in the long run, explained Dr. Anita Henderson, a Hattiesburg pediatrician and former president of the state pediatric association. 

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“The return on investment is going to be great,” Henderson said. “Because if we can prevent even just one premature baby that might cost the state a million dollars, then the program pays for itself. So the healthier we can get that mom, the healthier we can get that baby.”

How to know if you qualify

Anyone who is pregnant and makes at or below 194% of the federal poverty level qualifies for Medicaid and for presumptive eligibility. These individuals can start receiving care as soon as they find out they're pregnant by showing proof of monthly income to a doctor at a qualifying location. A spokesperson from the Division of Medicaid told Mississippi Today that the agency will communicate to the public which locations are participating in presumptive eligibility, but said that they “are still working on what that outreach will look like.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi Today

Dau Mabil’s widow, her family say they seek justice for him

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mississippitoday.org – Jerry Mitchell – 2024-06-14 17:53:45

Karissa Bowley and her say they all efforts to find justice for the late Dau Mabil, one of the “Lost Boys” of who came to Jackson in 2000 despite implications by others to the contrary. 

“Dau was special before he ever married me,” his widow told reporters in a Friday press conference. “I'm just here, missing him.”

Mabil, a 33-year-old Belhaven Heights resident, disappeared March 25. He was seen on surveillance on Jefferson Street between Fortification and High streets, and at one point went to the Trail to check on corn he planted. 

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Last image of Dau Mabil on Jefferson Street in Jackson, Miss., before he disappeared on March 25, 2024.

Bowley searched for her husband with others. “The whole ordeal has been frustrating and tragic,” she said. “I wouldn't wish it on anybody.”

Three weeks after his disappearance, a fisherman spotted a body floating in the Pearl near Lawrence County, more than 50 miles away. By April 18, a preliminary autopsy had revealed the body belonged to Mabil. The Lawrence County sheriff said there was no evidence of foul play. Her family said Friday that authorities told them they are waiting on toxicology tests before finalizing the official autopsy.

Bowley said it wasn't unusual for Dau to without his phone and his identification.

Texts contained in court records reveal a strained relationship between Bowley and Mabil. Bowley complained that Mabil was “drinking a lot,” and Mabil complained that Bowley “does not know how to control her emotions.”

Bowley's brother, Spencer, responded Friday, “No marriage is perfect, and theirs wasn't either.”

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But he said the allegation that Bowley or the family had anything to do with Mabil's disappearance is simply false.

He said some claimed on social media that Bowley contacted just 30 minutes after Mabil disappeared or that she waited until the next day. He said both claims are entirely false.

Bowley said there is a void where her husband once was. “Grief is your body, mind and spirit saying no,” she said, “but the reality is still there.”

After the finishes its investigation, official autopsy results will be released to Bowley and Mabil's brother, Bul, according to a court order. 

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Bul Mabil recently won the right to have an independent autopsy performed on Dau's remains.

Bowley's family said they support all efforts by Bul Mabil and others to find justice.

“I'm feeling very deeply the loss of Dau. I keep pushing for justice for Dau,” Bowley said. “He's a person I care to honor the rest of my .”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

Gwen Dilworth joins health team at Mississippi Today

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mississippitoday.org – 2024-06-14 11:00:18

Gwen Dilworth is a Community reporter at Mississippi Today. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Mississippi Today is pleased to announce that Gwen Dilworth has joined the community health team at Mississippi Today.

Dilworth is a native of Durham, North Carolina, and most recently completed a fellowship at The Times-Independent in Moab, Utah, where she covered local government and Southeast Utah's mining industry. Before that, she worked at Innocence New Orleans where she advocated for people serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes.

“Gwen is not only a fantastic writer but an impressive investigator with a diverse skill set and a knack for ensuring accuracy,” said Kate Royals, community health editor at Mississippi Today. “Mississippi is lucky to have her here.”

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Dilworth also served as a fact checker for Boyce Upholt's book “The Great River: The Making and Unmaking of the Mississippi” and freelanced for local publication The Mid- Messenger in New Orleans.

“It is a privilege to have the to cover a beat that is so important and connected to ' lives,” said Dilworth. “I'm thrilled to be joining a team of passionate and talented journalists covering critical topics in the with thoughtfulness and care. I'm looking forward to learning from and being a part of such a vibrant and welcoming community.” 

Dilworth will report on the intersection of health and criminal justice, among other of the health beat.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

On this day in 1965

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mississippitoday.org – Jerry Mitchell – 2024-06-14 07:00:00

JUNE 14, 1965

Anthony Quin standis in front of Matt Herron's photo of him when he was 5. Credit: Jerry Mitchell/Mississippi

The Mississippi Democratic Party organized a one-mile silent march, starting at Morning Star Baptist Church and ending at the Mississippi Capitol, where lawmakers were contemplating changes in laws. 

arrested the marchers, more than half of them students from Lanier High School. Over the next few weeks, more than 1,000 were arrested and held in livestock pens at the Mississippi Fairgrounds. 

During the protest, 5-year-old Anthony Quin waved a U.S. outside the Governor's Mansion. Matt Herron's photograph of state trooper Huey Krohn trying to wrestle the flag from Quin's hands ran in The New York Times and other newspapers across the U.S. Quin later said that his mother had told him to hold onto that flag for dear life — and he did. 

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On June 30, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the release of those arrested and barred the of Jackson from making any further arrests. 

Despite Quin's young age, this wasn't his first brush with the movement. A month before this photo was taken, his family's home was firebombed in McComb because of their work in the movement. He and his sisters went on to become the first students to integrate McComb

From those days of fighting racism on a day-by-day basis, Quin learned to care for students. He became a principal of several different elementary schools before becoming an administrator over the schools. In 2015, he died of pancreatic cancer.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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