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Report: Medicaid the Ticket to Healthier Moms, Babies in IL

Experts say Medicaid coverage is linked to better outcomes before, during and after pregnancy. (Studio Romantic/Adobe Stock)
Experts say Medicaid coverage is linked to better outcomes before, during and after pregnancy. (Studio Romantic/Adobe Stock)
May 22, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A new report shows that since expanding Medicaid five years ago, Illinois has nearly cut in half its rate of women of childbearing age who lack health-care coverage.

According to data released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the uninsured rate for Illinois women between ages 18 and 44 fell from roughly 17% to 9% between 2013 and 2017.

Kathy Waligora, interim executive director of EverThrive Illinois, says Medicaid coverage helps ensure women and children have what they need to be healthy.

"Health insurance is the ticket to the health-care system," Waligora says, "and the choice to expand Medicaid by the State of Illinois was an important step in driving improvements in health."

She adds Medicaid coverage is linked to better outcomes before, during and after pregnancy, as well as lower rates of both maternal and infant mortality. The report found a 50% greater reduction in infant mortality in states that expanded Medicaid than in non-expansion states.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says Medicaid also provides access to behavioral health services for mothers that can create better long-term outcomes for both moms and children.

"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. So, those are likely to have really positive, two-generational impacts."

Waligora says the report also is well-timed, as Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would further expand Medicaid for new moms.

"This bill expands Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum for all women in the State of Illinois," she explains. "It shows that Medicaid is important for driving health outcomes, and this report can help us to further expand Medicaid and provide access to life-saving care as well as important preventive care."

Senate Bill 1909/a> is awaiting approval in the House.

More than 600,000 Illinoisans have gained health-care coverage as a result of Medicaid expansion.

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.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL