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Report: Medicaid Expansion Good for Health of Mom, Babies

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019   

BOISE, Idaho – Expanding Medicaid has helped states cover more mothers and children and improve their health along the way, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The research finds Idaho's uninsured rate for women of child-bearing age dropped from about 24% to 17% between 2013 and 2017. Meanwhile, in neighboring Montana – which expanded Medicaid – the uninsured rate dropped from about 24% to 12%.

The rate dropped 13 percentage points in Washington state.

Idaho is poised to see these benefits after passing Medicaid expansion in 2018. But Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children, warned those gains could be stunted by lawmakers' addition of work requirements.

"Work-reporting requirements have been shown to disrupt and interrupt health-care coverage, as people have their hours cut or lose jobs," said Necochea, "and disruptions in health coverage are associated with increased risks for pregnant women and their babies."

The report found states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a 50% greater reduction in infant-mortality rates compared with states that have not expanded the program.

In November, voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah approved Medicaid expansion, leaving only 14 states that have not.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, pointed out that steady, uninterrupted coverage makes a difference for healthy birth outcomes.

"Things like maternal-depression screening and treatment, treatment for substance-use disorders, smoking cessation – all of those are benefits that Medicaid can and does cover," Alker said. "So, those are likely to have really positive, two-generational impacts."

Researchers also found that Medicaid expansion improved maternal health outcomes by increasing access to preventive care, and also reduced adverse health outcomes before, during and after pregnancies.

The Georgetown report was released in conjunction with the March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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