One in Four Texas Moms Lacks Health Coverage

    Texas leads the nation in the rate of uninsured women of childbearing age, according to a new report from Georgetown University. States that expanded Medicaid coverage saw a 50% greater reduction in infant mortality than non-expansion states including Texas.

    Texas has the highest rate of uninsured women of childbearing age in the nation, with one in four lacking coverage, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. It says states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act saw a 50% greater reduction in infant mortality than in non-expansion states.

    Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director of Children's Defense Fund-Texas, explained that to ensure women have healthy pregnancies and babies, women need health-care coverage throughout their lives. "States that have expanded Medicaid have seen reduced rates of both maternal deaths and infant mortality. They've reduced health disparities," said Guerra-Cardus. "African-American women are three times as likely to die from childbirth and pregnancy complications."

    Texas lawmakers have argued that expanding Medicaid could leave the state on the hook if the Affordable Care Act implodes. But Guerra-Cardus noted lawmakers are leaving $6 billion a year on the table that could provide health coverage for more than 1 million Texans. She believes the largely partisan opposition to expansion should be put aside to prioritize the lives of women and children.

    Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, pointed out that among developed nations, maternal mortality in the United States is going in the wrong direction. She is convinced that Medicaid expansion is the single most important step states can take to address the crisis, in part because steady, uninterrupted health coverage is critical for healthy birth outcomes.

    "Some pretty big states - like Texas, Florida, Georgia - have coverage gaps," Alker said. "And as a result, we see those states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the uninsurance rate for women of childbearing age is nearly twice as high as those states that have expanded Medicaid." In non-expansion states, many women only get coverage after they find out they're pregnant, which Alker calls problematic when a growing body of research shows that women need to be healthy at the time of conception.

    States that expanded Medicaid improved maternal health outcomes by increasing access to preventive care, and also reduced adverse health outcomes before, during and after pregnancies. The Georgetown report was released in conjunction with the March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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