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Medicaid Expansion: Benefits For Women of Childbearing Age And Their Children

February 22nd, 2013

States are in the midst of deciding whether and how to expand their Medicaid programs to nonelderly individuals with income below 133 percent of Federal Poverty Level (FPL), as permitted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The group that perhaps stands to benefit the most from Medicaid expansion is women of childbearing age and their future children.

One of the ACA’s main goals was to address the upstream determinants of health, shifting the focus of the health care system “sick care” to “well care.” However, the promise of preventive care will not be realized if women of childbearing age are denied access to health insurance coverage. Medicaid expansion has the potential to drive meaningful improvements in maternal and child health by promoting health at every stage of life, including before and between pregnancies.

Today, Medicaid coverage is unavailable in most states to childless women who are not pregnant.

As a result, low-income women may have little or no source of regular health care before or between pregnancies, or after their childbearing is concluded. These women often lack a medical home and go without both regular preventive care and acute care for illness or injury. This lack of preconception and interconception care can have a significant impact on women’s health, and on the health of future pregnancies and children. The ACA has the potential to transform this dynamic.

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