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Medicaid Expansion Results in Reduced Maternal and Infant Mortality

Posted on June 10, 2019 by Kim Doleatto, Herald-Tribune Media Group

Joy and excitement are common emotions for expectant mothers, but what about fear?

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, so that last one might be justified.

According to a recent paper from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families (CCF), one important way to reduce the dangers is through expanding Medicaid - –the safety net health insurance program that covers about half of all births nationwide.

“We have a policy option right at our fingertips to reduce infant and maternal mortality,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief medical and health officer of the March of Dimes, in a phone call with reporters.

States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act saw a 50% greater reduction in infant mortality.

Still, 17 states have foregone Medicaid expansion, including Florida and Texas, two states that account for over 15% of the U.S. births every year.

In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, such as Alabama and Georgia, the uninsured rate for women of childbearing age is nearly twice as high, putting babies and their new mothers at higher risk of preventable health conditions.

In many non-expansion states, the program covers moms for 60 days postpartum and their infants for a full year, but the report suggests new moms should be covered before conception and through the year following delivery.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that coverage is critical to cover more than 60 days postpartum. About one in three deaths occur up to a year after delivering,” said Lucia DiVenere, officer of government and political affairs with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“Once a woman becomes pregnant we want her to receive care as soon as possible so we can start to address nutrition, substance abuse and more.

Medicaid expansion leads to earlier initiation of care and quality prenatal care is widely recognized as being crucial,” Gupta added. Medicaid expansion coverage can also help moms address maternal depression. Estimates indicate a little more than half of infants in families struggling to get by are raised by mothers with some form of depression, which can disrupt bonding and early brain development.

The latest trend in applying work requirements adds more barriers to access.

In six states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, work requirements are being imposed on poor parents which “will make the situation markedly worse. We expect many of the moms to lose their coverage,” Joan Alker, executive director of the CCF said.

More than 100,000 low-income parents could have lost coverage under a Medicaid work-requirement bill considered by the Florida Legislature this year.

This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.

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