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Study: Reduced Medicaid Fails to Fully Cover Many Utah Moms-To-Be

A new report finds that states that expand Medicaid coverage have considerably fewer maternal deaths and lower infant mortality rates. (pressmaster/AdobeStock)
A new report finds that states that expand Medicaid coverage have considerably fewer maternal deaths and lower infant mortality rates. (pressmaster/AdobeStock)
May 23, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY – A new report shows that the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has resulted in fewer maternal deaths and lower infant mortality rates in many states.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report shows that providing health-care coverage for women before, during and after pregnancy improves the health of both mothers and babies.

In Utah, however, the state legislature recently reversed the results of a 2018 ballot initiative expanding Medicaid, leaving only a partial expansion.

Jessie Mandle, senior health policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, says that change leaves many Utah women and children at risk.

"Because of Utah's partial expansion, more women are now eligible for Medicaid. But we know that many women are still going to be left without access to quality, affordable health coverage,” says Mandle. “And moms are at risk for abrupt disruptions in care when they lose their Medicaid 60 days postpartum."

Despite Utah voters approving an expansion at the ballot box, the Utah Legislature nullified the vote and limited qualifying Medicaid incomes to those at or below the poverty line. That removed about 60,000 Utahans from the rolls.

In downgrading the program, Republican lawmakers argued that Utah could not afford the expansion.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, says many states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a significant reduction in infant mortality rates. However, she says in states that did not expand, maternal mortality is going in the wrong direction.

"We are really the only very developed country that's seeing that, and that's very troubling,” says Alker. “For states that have not expanded Medicaid, Medicaid expansion is clearly the single most important step a state could take to address this crisis."

Alker adds that while Medicaid covers pregnancy in every state, there are some major differences between the expansion and non-expansion states.

"In states that have not expanded Medicaid, typically these women are only getting their coverage after they find they're pregnant, and then they're plunged into uninsured status 60 days after having the baby,” says Alker. “That's problematic, because women need to be healthy when they get pregnant."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says women need access to continuous coverage prior to becoming pregnant and 12 months after delivery 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 - UT