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Get to Know TennCare: Postpartum Coverage

 
Effective April 1, 2022, TennCare is expanding coverage, including a dental benefit, for pregnant and postpartum women for a full year. Read on to learn more about this new coverage.
 
TennCare, the state's Medicaid program covers about 1.6 million low-income Tennesseans and covers half of the state's births.1 TennCare proposed funding for the postpartum expansion and dental benefit in 2019 but it was ultimately cut from the state's budget with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.  TennCare again proposed funding for the coverage expansions and Governor Lee included them in his Supporting Strong Families initiative in 2021. Funding for the programs was passed last year and both the postpartum coverage extension and dental benefit went into effect on April 1, 2022. 
 
Why is TennCare expanding postpartum coverage? 
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 222 mothers died before their babies were one-year of age between 2017-2019 and nearly 80% of those deaths were determined to be preventable.2 There are also significant racial disparities in maternal mortality. Black women are more than 1.5 times as likely to die during birth or in the year following birth as white women and nearly 4 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.3  

The investment in postpartum coverage, is designed to ensure women have more interaction with providers to prevent complications related to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental health, and substance use and ultimately reduce maternal mortality. 
 
Why is TennCare providing dental coverage? 
Along with the postpartum coverage expansion, TennCare is providing a dental benefit for pregnant and postpartum women. Oral health is intricately tied to overall health and well-being. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to oral health disease and cavities, and these complications can affect their babies and lead to oral health problems throughout childhood.4 

Providing a dental benefit will ensure pregnant women and new moms receive the care they need to address any underlying oral health problems and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria to their babies, leading to better overall health for both women and their children. 
 
What comes next for postpartum coverage and oral health benefit? 
The postpartum coverage expansion and oral health benefit are effective as of April 1, 2022, and applicable to all types of pregnancies, including those that end in loss.  However, women may not be aware that these benefits are available to them.

For women to receive the benefits, pregnant women must update their information with TennCare, notifying the program that they are pregnant. To update this information, women can go to TennCare Connect (tenncareconnect.tn.gov) or call 855.259.0701.  
 
 
 
[1] TennCare Overview. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.tn.gov/tenncare/information-statistics/tenncare-overview.html#:~:text=TennCare%20is%20the%20state%20of,elderly%20or%20have%20a%20disability.
[2] Tennessee Department of Health. (2021).2021 Tennessee Maternal Mortality Annual Report. Retrieved from https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/program-areas/maternal-mortality/MMR_Annual_Report_2021.pdf
[3] Ibid.
[4] Pregnancy and Oral Health. (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/pregnancy-and-oral-health.htm
 
 
 

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