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Study: Medicaid Coverage Improves Arkansas Childbirth Outcomes

A new study shows that when states expand Medicare coverage, there are fewer maternal deaths and lower rates of infant mortality. (Pixabay)
A new study shows that when states expand Medicare coverage, there are fewer maternal deaths and lower rates of infant mortality. (Pixabay)
May 23, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new report shows that states expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, including Arkansas, have fewer maternal deaths and lower infant mortality rates.

The new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that providing health-care coverage for women before, during and after pregnancy improves the health of both mothers and babies. Georgetown Center executive director Joan Alker says the improvements in health outcomes in Arkansas and across the country were substantial.

"We know, for example, that states that have expanded Medicaid have seen 50% greater reduction in infant mortality than non-expansion states,” says Alker. “These kinds of results are showing the kind of improvements in health care for women and babies that hopefully all policymakers can get behind."

According to the report, uninsured rates for women of child-bearing age in Arkansas dropped almost 15 percentage points between 2013 and 2017, almost twice the national average.

The report points out, however, that women of color still face adversity. It found that black women are nearly three times as likely to die of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth than are white women.

In 2018, Arkansas lawmakers imposed work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Loretta Alexander, health policy director with Arkansas Voices for Children, says it took legal action to restore lost benefits to pregnant women.

"Fortunately, a court ruling stepped in this year to stop the work-reporting requirements for the people that were getting their Medicaid coverage and had to report their work activity,” says Alexander. “That is on hold right now from a ruling by the federal court."

Alker says despite Medicaid's successes, some states still work hard to block Medicaid access.

"It's sort of amazing to me the places these opponents will go to really put up barriers, so that women and their kids cannot get the health care they need,” says Alker. “And it's short-sighted, because people's health problems don't go away if you ignore them."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women have access to continuous coverage prior to becoming pregnant and 12 months postpartum to reduce preventable adverse outcomes.

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.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR