In relating the tragic story of Shelane Gaydos’s death from postpartum psychosis, the Aug. 5 Metro article “ ‘She died from a disease called postpartum depression’ ” pointed out that maternal depression is not rare and that the condition can have serious consequences for mothers and their children. Additionally, the prevalence of maternal depression is greater in women with low incomes, with women of color facing even higher rates. Maternal depression can compromise a child’s early brain development, affecting cognitive, social and emotional health and impeding school readiness. Health insurance for parents and children is essential to addressing this problem.
In May 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services clarified that pediatricians can conduct maternal depression screenings during Medicaid-covered well-child visits and can consider such screenings a preventive service for the child. A handful of states, including Virginia, already allowed this practice, and additional states are beginning to adopt it.
CMS also allows Medicaid providers to deliver “dyadic” care to mother and child as part of the child’s benefit package. Dyadic care has therapeutic advantages, but if the mother needs more intensive therapy or medication, she will need her own health coverage.
In states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, more parents are eligible for health-care coverage than ever before. Fortunately, states still have the opportunity to provide Medicaid coverage to more mothers. Addressing maternal depression can help narrow health disparities and set parents and their children on a healthier path.
Donna Cohen Ross, Washington
The writer is a vice president at the Center for the Study of Social Policy.