Information on the number of births financed by the Medicaid system was not collected or accurately represented until 2008, when Anne Markus, a professor at George Washington University, decided to change that practice. Along with her fellow colleagues and study authors, Anne collected data on Medicaid-funded pregnancies and deliveries between 2008 and 2010, in an effort to calculate just how broad the Medicaid spectrum is to the reproductive community. According to the collection of data, nearly 50% of all births in the United States are paid for by the Medicaid system.

The Medicaid health insurance system is in place to provide medical coverage to adults and children who would otherwise not have access to medical care. The system is set to expand coverage in some states when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes live in January 2014. While not all states have chosen to expand state Medicaid coverage, by increasing the total family income allowed to qualify for coverage, the expansion could be extremely beneficial for the states that have, in terms of prenatal care, postnatal care and infant/childcare.

At the heart of the matter are the 500 million premature births recorded each year in the United States. With expanded Medicaid coverage, especially in areas where premature birth numbers are the highest, women could receive the prenatal care necessary to reduce the risk of premature delivery; if infants are born premature, necessary medical care could be provided to reduce the long-term impact of prematurity.

Along with general numbers, the study also provided detailed numbers for Medicaid-covered pregnancies in each state. In Hawaii, for instance, only 25% of births are covered by Medicaid. In Louisiana, on the other hand, up to 70% of births are financed by Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid coverage would also allow women to receive medical care between pregnancies, which could have a positive impact on pregnancy outcome and reduce overall costs of medical coverage long-term, as well as reducing the number of premature births.

Medicaid plays a “vital role” in maternal health care and child health care, according to Cynthia Pellegrini, the study author. Researchers hope to use the current data and new data collected after the Medicaid expansion in order to gauge the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on maternal and infant health.

Source: Anne Rossier Markus, JD, Ph.D., MHS; Ellie Anders, MPH, DrPH-c; Kristina D. West, JD; Nicole Garro, MPH; Cynthia Pellegrini, BA. Medicaid Covered Births, 2008 Through 2010, in the Context of the Implementation of Health Reform. Women's Health Issues Journal. September 2013, DOI: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.06.006.