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Report Calls Medicaid Expansion Good for PA Mothers, Infants

by Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

May 24, 2019
Nurse helping in baby delivery in clean hospital room

Without expanded Medicaid, women may get insurance only when pregnant and lose it 60 days after delivery.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A new study says states that have expanded Medicaid have healthier mothers and much lower rates of infant mortality.

The report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, part of the university’s Health Policy Institute, says the reduction in the rate of uninsured women of childbearing age in states that have expanded Medicaid is almost twice that of states that haven’t, and those same states saw a 50% greater reduction in infant mortality.

Most states have Medicaid coverage for women while they’re pregnant, but without expansion, many low-income women lose coverage 60 days after delivery.

According to Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, expanded Medicaid gives access to coverage that is critical to women and their babies before, during and after pregnancy.

“Things like maternal depression screening and treatment, treatment for substance-use disorders, smoking cessation – those are likely to have really positive, two-generational impacts,” said Alker.

In Pennsylvania, the rate of uninsured women dropped by almost half after the state expanded Medicaid.

Becky Ludwick, health policy director at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says Medicaid expansion was a critical step toward ensuring that children and families in the Keystone State can thrive, but more can be done.

“We’re in the planning stages of building a comprehensive policy continuum to ensure there’s an additional 25% of young children getting access to high-quality programs and services to improve their well-being,” Ludwick explained.

Last month, Pennsylvania was one of eleven states awarded planning grants to develop and strengthen high-quality services for children from prenatal to age three.

But on a national scale, Alker pointed out that while the rate of maternal deaths is decreasing in countries around the world, the United States is virtually the only developed nation where that rate is going in the wrong direction.

“And that’s very troubling,” she stressed. “For states that have not expanded Medicaid, Medicaid expansion is clearly the single most important step a state could take to address this crisis.”

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

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