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More Medicaid Will Save More Utah Mom's Lives, Says Report

Utah has a reputation for being a good place for families, and a new report by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families suggests that the voter-approved Medicaid expansion passed this year could make it even better.

Last November, Utah voters approved Proposition 3 expanding the state’s Medicaid.  Utah’s lawmakers later amended the legislation, allowing a maximum of 90,000 low-income Utahns to access the new program – a number much lower than what the voters seemed to want. According to a new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, the Medicaid expansion could save the lives of new mothers and babies.

“States that had expanded Medicaid saw a 50% reduction in infant mortality than non-expansion state.  In states that had expanded Medicaid, the maternal mortality rate went down.  There were about 1.6 fewer women dying per 100,000 births,” said Adam Searing, a research professor at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

Searing says this is because Medicaid expansion allows women to access prenatal care earlier.  This allows them to address health issues during their pregnancy before it becomes dangerous.  When Searing looked at the pre-expansion data, he said Utah wasn’t measuring up to its family-friendly reputation.

“Utah was below average in reducing the uninsured rate for women of childbearing age.  Utah could do better.  Expansion is an important part of that,” Searing said.

Although Searing thinks the Medicaid expansion should improve maternal and infant health, the unusual nature of Utah’s new Medicaid law makes it difficult to predict the effects.

“It’s hard to make a comparison, because other states that have expanded don’t have the ability to limit the number of people on the expansion.  I would expect that the uninsured rate for women of childbearing age will go down, but I’m not sure it will go down as much,” Searing said.