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Medicaid Expansion Increased Access to Prenatal Care

Expanded Medicaid reduced the number of uninsured pregnant mothers by 8%.
Published Online: Jan 10,2018
Laurie Toich, Associate Editor
The expansion of state Medicaid programs has been found to improve care for a number of lower-income Americans who were previously unable to afford care.

A new study published by Health Services Research showed that Medicaid expansion in 34 states between 1996 and 2011 increased the number of pregnant women who received prenatal care.

Compared with other developed countries, the United States has a high rate of infant mortality largely due to the poor health of children born to lower income mothers.

Health care advocates have long pushed for implementing interventions prior to pregnancy in hopes of improving infant health. While early prenatal care is important for pregnancy-related risks, the authors said that chronic diseases, substance use, and other factors can have a substantial impact prior to conception.

Included in the study were data from the CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring surveys conducted from 1997 to 2012. The authors analyzed changes in Medicaid-insured pregnant women.

The authors projected changes in insured mothers prior to and during pregnancy, determined whether pregnancies were planned, and examined changes in prenatal care linked to expansion, according to the study.   

During this time, the authors found a 2.3% increase in insured pregnant women who previously had children.

Additionally, there was a nearly 8% reduction in the number of uninsured pregnant mothers in states that expanded their Medicaid programs, according to the study.

The authors found that expanded Medicaid services also led to 0.4% more mothers receiving prenatal care earlier in their pregnancies, which could mitigate health problems later in children’s lives.

Pregnant women with less education were 1.7% more likely to receive sufficient prenatal care compared with before Medicaid expansion, according to the study.

The findings demonstrate that Medicaid expansion can improve the insured rate and expanded use of prenatal care, which may offer important improvements for children’s health, according to the authors.

The authors said that increasing the insurance rate for women prior to pregnancy allows providers to potentially address risk factors linked to high-risk pregnancies. The researchers concluded that Medicaid expansion may also encourage behaviors and activities that can improve the health of women and their children.