pregnant bellyA revision in Medicaid policy could soon decreased the number of unintended pregnancies and save $215 million each year in public health costs, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Their findings, published in the journal Contraception, support a growing body of evidence that the nation needs to revisit the Medicaid policy that requires, among other things, a mandatory 30-day waiting period before a female sterilization procedure. Many experts believe this policy disproportionately affects low-income and minority women who are at special risk for unintended pregnancies.

Each year, 250,000 women in the United States request public funding from Medicaid for sterilization in hopes of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. Currently, only about 53 percent of these requests are fulfilled. Past research suggests the mandatory 30-day waiting period poses significant logistical barriers that impede the process. For example, a woman who wishes to be sterilized immediately after delivering a baby must present a written copy of the consent form signed at least one month prior to delivery.

The original intent of the policy, enacted in the 1970s, was to protect low-income and minority women from a documented history of coercive, non-consensual procedures. At this time, however, many researchers believe the policy actually puts these women at higher risk for unintended pregnancies. Removing the 30-day mandatory waiting period may increase the number of sterilization procedures and reduce both the number of unintended pregnancies and the financial burden these pregnancies impose on public funds.

Researchers in this newest study calculated the savings a revised Medicaid policy could bring and think that a revision could increase the percent of fulfilled Medicaid requests by 45 percent, from 53 percent to 77.5 percent. This increase in sterilizations could avert 29,000 unintended pregnancies each year, saving $215 million annually in public funds.


  • "Revised Medicaid Sterilization Policy Could Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, Save $215 Million in Annual Public Health Costs, Pitt Study Finds." University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 12 Sept 2013. Web. 29 Sept 2013.
  • Borrero S., et al. "Potential unintended pregnancies averted and cost savings associated with a revised Medicaid sterilization policy." Contraception. 16 Aug 2013. Web. 29 Sept 2013.
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