Advocates for Families in Need
211 7th Avenue N, Ste. 100
Nashville, TN 37219
Phone: (615)255-0331 Fax: (615)255-0354
For Immediate Release
Contact: Michele Johnson
New Report Finds States that Have Not Expanded Medicaid Lag Behind in Maternal and Child Health
A new report finds that Tennessee has a higher uninsured rate for women of child-bearing age compared to states that have expanded Medicaid. The uninsured rate for Tennessee women ages 18-44 is 12.2 percent, compared to an average 9 percent in Medicaid expansion states.
Medicaid expansion has played a key role in reducing rates of maternal death, decreasing infant mortality rates, and improving the potential for optimal birth outcomes that can increase the promise for a healthy childhood, according to the report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. States that expanded Medicaid saw a 50 percent greater reduction in infant mortality, compared to non-expansion states. The research also showed that this decline was greatest among African American infants, which drove the overall decline and helped to substantially reduce the racial disparity in infant mortality rates.
“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 during this critical stage of life.”
States that have expanded Medicaid have also decreased the likelihood that women’s eligibility for coverage fluctuates, resulting in losing and regaining 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.
“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 at 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.”
Research shows that health coverage prior to pregnancy helps address risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease and improves access to timely prenatal care. In Tennessee, new mothers typically lose Medicaid coverage 60 days postpartum. When mothers abruptly lose health coverage so soon after giving birth, it can force women to abandon medication or other ongoing treatment they may need, including support for postpartum depression.
“No mother should lose her life or her child because she didn’t get the care she needed before, during or after pregnancy,” said Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health. “This data proves how critical health insurance is to the health of mother and child. But trends in Tennessee are moving in the wrong direction. Rather than expanding access to TennCare, we’ve seen more than 100,000 children lose health coverage despite the fact they many remain eligible for the program. Cutting families from TennCare will cut them off from the vital care moms and babies need.”