Medicaid for mothers
Posted May 18, 2015 in Selected Press
Over the past decade, infant mortality rates in Lucas County and the rest of Ohio have remained heartbreakingly high, especially for African-Americans and poor families. Yet as they prepare to pass a new state budget, many lawmakers want to reduce support for expectant mothers who are Medicaid recipients. That shouldn’t happen.
Infant mortality is a public health crisis. Among every 1,000 babies who were born in Ohio in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, nearly eight died before they reached their first birthday. That’s the fifth worst ranking among states, according to a new study by Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal advocacy group.
Among African-Americans, the infant mortality rate in Ohio was 16 deaths per 1,000 live births. In Lucas County, the rate was 7.5 deaths per 1,000 births from 2008 to 2012, down from 8.7 deaths from 2003 to 2007. The national infant mortality rate in 2011 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000 births.
Many factors contribute to infant mortality: a mother’s socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity; her overall health; access to high-quality medical and preventive care, and issues such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and obesity. Long-term strategies can reduce infant death rates, but the Medicaid cutbacks in the budget approved by the Ohio House would have the opposite effect.
According to the Policy Matters report, infant mortality rates are lower when mothers are covered by Medicaid, because prenatal care starts earlier. Women who lack adequate access to medical care are more likely to give birth prematurely — the leading cause of infant mortality.
An infant born to a mother covered by Medicaid is also eligible for at least a year’s coverage — a critical time to get medical care and frequent checkups, and for his or her mother to take advantage of nutritional education and subsidies.
Yet the House-approved budget would create new barriers for poor women to get and maintain health care through Medicaid: reduced eligibility for pregnant women, cuts in family-planning services, ceilings on care, higher premiums, and lockout coverage periods for missed or late payments or paperwork.
Gov. John Kasich acted responsibly when he put partisan politics aside to accept federal funding to broaden Medicaid eligibility in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act. The expanded coverage is beneficial to women who are pregnant, as well as those who seek health services such as family planning and screenings for breast and cervical cancer.
An infant’s health is determined by the health of his or her mother. Ohio senators must reject the House’s unconscionable effort to limit the Medicaid expansion through cuts to women’s health services. And if the Senate doesn’t do that before the new budget takes effect July 1, Governor Kasich will have to.
Original Article: http://www.toledoblade.com/Editorials/2015/05/18/M...