Study: Nearly Half of U.S. Childbirths Paid For By Medicaid

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Nearly half of U.S. births (48 percent) are paid for by Medicaid -- a number likely to increase in 2014, as some states will extend Medicaid to thousands of uninsured, low-income women under the Affordable Care Act. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly half of U.S. births (48 percent) are paid for by Medicaid — a number likely to increase in 2014, as some states will extend Medicaid to thousands of uninsured, low-income women under the Affordable Care Act. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Nearly half of U.S. births (48 percent) are paid for by Medicaid — a number likely to increase in 2014, as some states will extend Medicaid to thousands of uninsured, low-income women under the Affordable Care Act.

A study finds that the number of American births paid for by Medicaid is higher than previously estimated, which showed that about 40 percent of the nearly 4 million annual births in the U.S. are paid for by Medicaid.

Published in the September 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Women’s Health Issues, study co-author Cynthia Pellegrini said that birth outcomes will greatly improve in response to increased Medicaid funding towards childbirth.

“We hope to see a gigantic improvement in birth outcomes,” said Pelligrini.

According to the study, in 2010, Medicaid financed 48 percent of all births, an increase of 19 percent in the proportion of all births covered by Medicaid in 2008.

And percentages varied greatly between states.

The percentage of Medicaid-paid births varied widely from a high of nearly 70 percent in Louisiana to below 30 percent in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

“As states expand coverage to low-income women, women of childbearing age will be able to obtain coverage before and between pregnancies, allowing for access to services that could improve their overall and reproductive health, as well as birth outcomes,” write the researchers.

The study’s authors write that the Affordable Care Act will extend Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income women, previously uninsured, some of whom will become pregnant. The study cites estimates that 4.6 million currently uninsured women ages 19-44 may qualify for Medicaid coverage if all states expand eligibility.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, states are required to maintain their Medicaid eligibility levels for adults until health insurance exchanges are fully operational, presumably until January 1, 2014.

And the study authors write that the increased Medicaid coverage may actually save costs in the long-run.

“Improved birth outcomes could translate into substantial cost savings, because the costs associated with preterm births are estimated to be 10 times greater than those for full-term births.”

According to Families USA, more than 58 million people rely on overall Medicaid services today, and millions more will qualify for Medicaid when the provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect in 2014.

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