Advertisement
  1. News

New report shows Florida lags in health coverage for pregnant women

Keisha Walters, of Tampa, smiles at her six month-old daughter Zeeva Goldsmith on Dec. 19. A new report shows that Medicaid expansion can improve pregnancy care for child-bearing age women in Florida. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published May 22

Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates for women of child-bearing age and continues to lag behind states that have expanded Medicaid, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University Center of Children and Families released a study Wednesday that showed the uninsured rate for women ages 18 to 44 in Florida is 19 percent, compared to the average of 9 percent in states that have opted for expansion of Medicaid, a federal and state program that helps cover medical costs for people with limited income and resources. The report found that Medicaid expansion played a role in reducing rates of maternal death, decreasing infant mortality rates and improving birth outcomes in those specific states. Florida is one of 14 states that has not expanded Medicaid.

"The U.S. has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality of industrialized countries in the world," said Adam Searing, the report's author. "Other countries have gotten better where we've gotten worse. There are stark racial disparities, too. African-American women are three times more likely to die from childbirth than white women, and the vast majority of these deaths are preventable."

A provision in the Affordable Care Act gave states the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to cover more low-income residents. While the federal government is financing most of the expansion, states must contribute more to the program. But the option was a non-starter in the conservative Florida House. And former Gov. Rick Scott flip-flopped on the idea, ultimately saying he worried the federal government would go back on its promise to fund the majority of the expansion.

States that have expanded Medicaid to all adults with an annual income of about $29,435 for a family of three, saw a 50 percent reduction in infant mortality rates compared to states like Florida that did not expand Medicaid, the report shows. The decline was the greatest among African-American infants. The report looked at data in all states from 2013 to 2017.

In Florida, the income threshold for Medicaid is about $6,825 for a family of three. Adults with no children nor any disabilities do not qualify for Medicaid benefits, no matter how poor. Women in Florida are generally covered once they become pregnant, but rarely before or after. In most cases, mothers lose coverage 60 days after giving birth.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Thousands of Florida children have no health insurance. A new infusion of money aims to help.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women have access to health coverage before becoming pregnant and at least 12 months postpartum to reduce preventable adverse health outcomes.

"Health coverage before, during, and after pregnancy is essential to the health and well-being of both mother and child," said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center of Children and Families, a nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 that examines health care coverage for children and families across the United States. It is part of Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy. "Medicaid expansion is the single most effective way to help women of childbearing age get continuous health coverage during this critical stage of life."

Alker went on to describe how health care can fluctuate rapidly for women as they fall in and out of care around a pregnancy. States that have expanded Medicaid saw larger decreases in those gaps of coverage, she said.
"Any policy that will help boost the health of Florida mothers and infants should be a top priority for state lawmakers," said Sadaf Knight, CEO of the Florida Policy Institute in Tallahassee. "Not only would expanding Medicaid help more than 500,000 low-income residents access health care services — our state would receive $9 in federal funds for every $1 we invest, meaning that more state dollars would be freed up to invest in other areas."

The research also examined how health coverage prior to pregnancy had an impact on other risk factors for women, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

RELATED: Florida lawmakers keep pushing Medicaid work requirements

Center of Children and Families researchers went on to criticize Florida for a proposed bill in Florida's House of Representatives (House Bill 955) that would have required an estimated 500,000 Medicaid beneficiaries to work or show they are trying to get jobs to keep their health-care benefits. Several recent court rulings struck down similar requirements. The bill passed in the House, but was not passed by the Senate during the 2019 legislative session.

"Not only has Florida not expanded Medicaid, the Florida House passed one of the worst Medicaid work requirements I've seen across the country," Akler said. "Without Medicaid expansion, it will be near impossible to see sharp improvements for women."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
  2. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.
  3. Lilly Beth Rodriguez, left, Laura Robertson and Linda Lamont work on a Habitat for Humanity house in north Pasco. [Times (2013)]
    The increase is expected to happen in the first half of next year. CEO hopes other nonprofits follow suit.
  4. Terry Spencer carries his daughter, Trinity, through high water on 59th Street near Stewart Road in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, as heavy rain from Tropical Depression Imelda caused street flooding on the island. JENNIFER REYNOLDS  |  AP
    Although the amount of predicted rainfall is massive — forecasters say some places could see 40 inches or more this week.
  5. This April 2001 photo, which appeared in a newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy, shows a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, attending an "Arabian Nights" gala. The academy is a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. (West Point Grey Academy/The Canadian Press via AP)
    A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.
  6. The number of single-family homes sold in the Tampa Bay area during August rose 2.8 percent when compared with the same month last year, according to a monthly report from Florida Realtors. (Times file photo)
    The midpoint price in the bay area rose to $250,000, which is still lower than the state and national median prices.
  7. This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America’s skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    “People need to pay attention to the birds around them because they are slowly disappearing,” said the study’s lead author.
  8. Michael Robert-Jose Harbaugh has pleaded guilty in the 2017 slaying of Safety Harbor neighbor David Sommer, a former reporter. Harbaugh also pleaded guilty to a charge he tried to have a witness in the case killed. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    Michael Harbaugh, 42, also pleaded guilty to trying to have a fellow inmate kill a witness in the murder case.
  9. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  10. The Aldi store located on 1551 34th St N, St. Petersburg, Florida in 2018, features its updated layout. JONES, OCTAVIO   |  Tampa Bay Times
    The store will re-open after renovations on Thursday, Sept. 26
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement