WASHINGTON (AP) — Labor and delivery are thought of as the riskiest times for new mothers, but many women die in the weeks and months after giving birth. Now a provision in the COVID-19 relief bill could help change that.

The legislation gives states the option of extending Medicaid coverage to women with low to modest incomes for a full year after childbirth. States are currently required to provide 60 days of coverage, but medical experts point to research showing that women can die from pregnancy-related conditions up to a year after giving birth, and that 3 in 5 of all such deaths are preventable.

The maternal health provisions would make it easier for states to cover new mothers for a full year by cutting the time and paperwork needed to obtain approval from Washington under Medicaid, as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Maternal health advisory groups in 19 states, from Texas to Massachusetts, and Washington to Tennessee, have recommended such an extension. Last year a bipartisan bill to do so cleared the House but failed to advance in the Senate.

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