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Access to Health Care: The Best Gift for Mom?

As Ohioans celebrate their mothers this weekend, state lawmakers are considering cuts that could affect the health of soon-to-be moms and their babies. The proposed two-year budget narrows Medicaid eligibility for pregnancy.

Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long said the cuts are of concern, given that Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. She said prenatal care reduces premature birth, the leading cause of infant mortality.

“These are months that are critical to the woman having a great start to her pregnancy, to be sure that every health issue is addressed during the pregnancy,” she said. “Women who do not have adequate coverage have poorer birth outcomes.”

Lawmakers are suggesting reducing eligibility from 200 percent of poverty to 138 percent, with the notion that women can seek coverage in the health insurance exchange. However, open enrollment is once a year and some women could go without coverage during pregnancy.

Long said late prenatal care, maternal stress and low-income status are among factors associated with pre-term birth.

Judith Warren, director of Health Care Access Now in Cincinnati, said women living in poverty do not have a lot of disposable income, so without Medicaid they may be unable to seek care.

“To have the burden of expecting to pay out of pocket for premiums and other health care needs will just put them in more of a fragile economic position.” she said.

The proposed budget also reduces Medicaid eligibility for family planning, which Long said impacts a woman’s health before and after pregnancy.

“It’s critical that women have access to be able to safely space their births,” she said, “so family-planning services as well as other kinds of preventive health and health promotion care for women is critical.”

Medicaid supports more than 40 percent of births nationally, and research finds that Medicaid can reduce infant mortality for high-risk women. This article was reposted with permission from Ohio News Connection.

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