Medicaid Expansion Aids Maternal Health

By Emilie McKendall

A young woman in Broward County, FL was recently forced to deliver her newborn baby alone, in a prison cell.  And an Alabama woman was charged with murder when she was shot in the abdomen during an altercation, resulting in the death of her unborn child.  (These charges were later dropped.)  Both women were minorities.

These are just two examples of racial disparities in our country.

A report by Christine Sexton of Tallahassee, (Medicaid expansion aids maternal health) says it all.  Ms. Sexton’s report states “Medicaid plays an important part in maternal and child health care, and states like Florida that refuse to expand the program are missing an opportunity to address racial disparities in maternal health” according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Infant mortality is a key indicator of health and the effectiveness of the health care system in a country. Although the situation is improving in the U.S., significant disparities still persist in infant mortality, predominantly regarding race.  The rate of infant mortality for babies born to black women is almost twice the rate for babies born to white women.

Infant Mortality (IM) and Low Birth Weight (LBW) rates in Florida vary across geographic areas. Three demographic characteristics are accounted for to calculate the expected IM and LBW: maternal race, marital status, and maternal education. In Palm Beach County (PBC), thanks to organizations like Children’s Services Council, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, Healthy Start, March of Dimes, FL Dept. of Health in PBC, etc. we are proud to state that the mortality rate for black infants is at a 20-year low in PBC, lower than all other Florida urban counties.

So imagine what Medicaid Expansion in Florida could accomplish for the rest of our state. According to the Georgetown researchers, State Medicaid can help address the racial disparities in maternal and child health.

Yet our Florida legislature has rejected proposals to expand the program, stating their concern for long term costs for the state.  We will not give up.

Our Healthcare Issue Group proudly continues to support LWVFL’s Healthcare priorities, including Medicaid Expansion and the Affordable Care Act.  The LWVFL Healthcare Committee has recently formed a statewide study group on this subject of racial disparities in maternal and infant health.  Along with our Chair, Nancy Gau, I will be pleased to share PBC’s success in this area with the other participants in this study.

Our meetings begin on Nov. 19, so more to follow!!