Government, Healthcare, Latest News

CHIP program expands maternity coverage

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services said the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program added more maternity coverage, covering additional conditions, as well as older mothers.

The expanded coverage allows pregnant women 19 and older, with no health insurance and an income between 185% to 300% of the federal poverty line, to receive maternity services and other health coverage from CHIP. Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law March 25.

“Maternity services can reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and are important to the health of the mother and baby,” Jean Kranz, executive director of the state’s CHIP program, said in a statement. “We encourage residents who believe they may be eligible to apply for coverage.”

Included in the expanded CHIP coverage is smoking cessation, a critical need in the state.

In West Virginia, one out of every four mothers smoke. By comparison, one in 10 mothers smoke nationally. The additional coverage also includes mothers who has a substance abuse disorder.

“If we can get a mother in to be evaluated and we can counsel them on the importance of tobacco cessation, it can have long-term health benefits for the mother and baby,” said pediatrician Lisa Costello, also an assistant professor in West Virginia University’s School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. “With tobacco use, we worry about the lung health of the mother and ensuring there’s good oxygen delivery to the baby. Nicotine use can cause constriction, which can impact the baby’s growth.”

The expanded coverage now allows the eligible mother continued services for 60 days after delivery, while the newborn is now eligible for up to one year after delivery. Additional services now covered include prenatal, medical, pharmacy, dental, vision and behavioral health, the state said.

Overall, more than 370,000 women nationally receive maternity benefits through CHIP, the March of Dimes has said.

Costello, who was appointed by Justice as a citizen member of the state’s CHIP board, said a number of conditions can also occur during pregnancy like gestational hypertension or diabetes. Since the bill went into effect, Costello said more than 100 women have received benefits through the state’s CHIP maternity program.

“We know that a barrier to care is not having health insurance,” she said. “If someone does have insurance, they’re more likely to seek care. If we can prevent long-term consequences, we will be saving money, and having mothers and babies who are living healthier, more productive lives.

“This is a big step, but ongoing education advocacy and policy is needed to ensure all pregnant mothers are covered.”

Income eligibility guides, as well as additional information can be found at

TWEET @41Suzanne