(Following is the press release we issued today on a new report “Medicaid Expansion Fills the Gaps in Maternal Health Coverage Leading to Healthier Mothers and Babies” by Adam Searing and Donna Cohen Ross.)
Medicaid helps fill the gaps in maternal health coverage and leads to healthier babies and mothers, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. States that expanded Medicaid have experienced greater improvements in reducing their uninsured rates for women of childbearing age and larger reductions in maternal deaths and infant mortality, according to extensive research summarized by the report.
“Health coverage before, during and after pregnancy is essential to the health and well-being of both mother and child,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. “Medicaid expansion is the single most effective way to help women of childbearing age get continuous health coverage.”
“The message of this study is clear: Medicaid expansion can protect the lives and health of women and their babies, especially women of color who are at higher risk for a range of poor outcomes,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical and Health Officer at March of Dimes. “If mom isn’t healthy, then her baby is at higher risk for a whole host of health consequences. If she’s healthy, however, that baby has a much higher likelihood of getting the best possible start in life.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women have access to continuous coverage prior to becoming pregnant and 12 months postpartum to reduce preventable adverse health outcomes.
“Ob-gyns have long recognized that continuous, quality and affordable medical care is vital to the health and wellbeing of our patients,” said Barbara Levy, M.D., vice president of Health Policy, ACOG. “This important research demonstrates that Medicaid expansion plays a critical role in reversing the steadily rising rates of maternal mortality in the United States by ensuring women have access to the care they need before, during and after childbirth. As many as 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. Therefore, ACOG encourages both expansion and non-expansion states to continue working toward Medicaid policies that fill the gaps in coverage to improve health outcomes for women and babies. ”
States that have expanded Medicaid to adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line have also decreased the likelihood that women’s eligibility for coverage fluctuates, meaning they are less likely to lose and regain coverage over a relatively short span of time. Breaks in health coverage, also known as “churn,” can disrupt care and cause existing health conditions to become more serious and more difficult and expensive to treat, according to the report.
While strategies to increase women’s health coverage have had positive effects, especially in states that have expanded Medicaid, stark racial disparities persist. Black women are nearly three times as likely to die of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth than are white women.
“No mother should lose her life or her child because she didn’t get the care she needed before, during or after pregnancy,” said report author Adam Searing. “States that have not yet expanded Medicaid are missing an important opportunity to address inequities and reduce their alarmingly high rates of infant and maternal mortality.”