Virginia is celebrating 50 years of Medicaid this week. The state-run program provides health insurance to the poor. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam celebrated with state employees.
At the Department of Medical Assistant Services in downtown Richmond, Governor Northam led a big thank you to state staff who run Medicaid. The program has recently expanded to take on almost three-hundred-thousand new customers.
“It’s because of you all, because of what you do everyday,” Northam told the agency’s staff.
Northam announced a renewed focus for the program: reducing the deaths of babies and new mothers. A third of the births in Virginia are covered by Medicaid.
Secretary of Health Daniel Carey says that means the program needs to help women access care before, during, and after pregnancy.
“Over 60% of the mothers who die in Virginia die after the first six weeks postpartum,” Carey says. “So it’s just not the birthing process and labor. It’s the fact that their chronic conditions in the postpartum period have been neglected.”
That neglect disproportionately impacts Black mothers. That’s been a focus of the Northam administration since a racist photo was found on the Governor’s medical school yearbook page.