FPI Staff
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May 22, 2019

Florida, Other States That Have Not Expanded Medicaid Lagging in Maternal and Child Health, Says New Report

Florida could reduce its uninsured rate and improve health outcomes by expanding Medicaid to all adults with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates for women of child-bearing age and is lagging far behind states that have expanded Medicaid, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF). The uninsured rate for women ages 18 to 44 in Florida is 19 percent, compared to an average 9 percent in Medicaid expansion states.

In Medicaid Expansion Fills Gaps in Maternal Health Coverage Leading to Healthier Mothers and Babies, CCF finds that Medicaid expansion has played a key role in reducing rates of maternal death, decreasing infant mortality rates and improving the potential for optimal birth outcomes that can increase the promise for a healthy childhood.

States that expanded Medicaid to all adults with annual income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which equates to $29,435 for a family of three, saw a 50 percent greater reduction in infant mortality compared to non-expansion states. The research also shows that this decline was greatest among African-American infants, which drove the overall decline and helped to substantially reduce the racial disparity in infant mortality rates.

In Florida, the income threshold for Medicaid is only 32 percent of the poverty level for parents/caretakers ($6,825 for a family of three) and 0 percent of the poverty level for childless adults without disabilities, who — no matter how poor — are unable to qualify for Medicaid benefits. Many women in Florida are unable to get coverage until they become pregnant.

“Any policy that will help boost the health of Florida mothers and infants should be a top priority for state lawmakers,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute. “Not only would expanding Medicaid help more than 500,000 low-income residents access health care services– our state would receive $9 in federal funds for every $1 we invest, meaning that more state dollars would be freed up to invest in other areas.”

“The time after giving birth is full of change,” said Alison Yager, director of policy advocacy for Florida Health Justice Project.  “New mothers should not have to worry about their ability to address their own health needs as they launch on the journey of caring for another.”

“Health coverage before, during, and after pregnancy is essential to the health and well-being of both mother and child,” said Joan Alker, executive director of CCF. “Medicaid expansion is the single most effective way to help women of childbearing age get continuous health coverage during this critical stage of life.”

States that expanded Medicaid have also decreased the likelihood that women’s eligibility for coverage will fluctuate. The cycle of losing and regaining coverage over a relatively short span of time, also known as “churn,” can disrupt care and cause existing health conditions to become more serious, difficult and expensive to treat, according to CCF.

Research shows that health coverage prior to pregnancy helps address risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease and improves access to timely prenatal care. In Florida, new mothers typically lose Medicaid coverage 60 days postpartum. When mothers abruptly lose health coverage so soon after giving birth, it can force women to abandon medication or other ongoing treatment they may need, including support for postpartum depression.

The CCF is an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable coverage for America’s children and families. CCF is based at the McCourt School of Public Policy.

Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

Florida Health Justice Project, a new nonprofit advocacy organization, seeks to improve access to affordable healthcare for Floridians, with a focus on vulnerable low-income populations.