TEXAS (KIAH) — On June 16, Gov. Greg Abbot signed House Bill 12, which extends Medicaid health coverage for Texas mothers from 60 days to a year after giving birth.

According to Salud America, the bill will have massive potential to improve newborn and maternal health outcomes for Latinas and all mothers statewide. And other medical experts agree.

“House Bill 12 it’s a positive for women in Texas,” said Dr. Efraim Vela, Gynecologist, Chief Medical Officer, DHR Women’s Hospital, Edinburg. “Diabetes and hypertension doesn’t go away in 6 weeks. Depression sometimes starts in 6 weeks, and women have to have that ability with which to get care and pay for medication.”

More than half of preventable pregnancy-related deaths happen between seven to 365 days postpartum, according to a 2022 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Mental health conditions are the most common cause of all preventable pregnancy-related deaths. In fact, postpartum depression affects one in seven Texas mothers, and it can develop up to a year after the baby is born, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition, Dr. Vela said health complications, like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and mood disorders, can make a pregnancy challenging. Many of these health conditions would need continued, prolonged care, even after birth.

“What comorbidity means is another disease such as diabetes or hypertension or even depression that can complicate a postpartum period, said Dr. Vela.

He added the bill will help women of color and low-income families.

House Bill 12 is expected to take effect by the end of 2023.