Legislators seek reversal of Kasich plan to end Medicaid for pregnant women

sykes
State Rep. Sykes speaks about Kasich proposals that could undermine efforts to lower Ohio’s infant mortality rates.

Today, Ohio lawmakers joined with advocates for women’s healthcare to hold a press conference calling for a reversal of policies proposed in the Kasich budget that they say could worsen Ohio’s infant mortality epidemic.

Ohio has one of the highest rates of infant mortality — the number of babies who do not reach their first birthday — in the country, 30% above the national average. The Governor’s proposed budget highlights efforts aimed at addressing the problem, including $13.4 million to connect women in high risk neighborhood with prenatal care. But the budget also contains a number of measures that legislators and advocates say will make the problem worse.

As we covered in our initial budget analysis, coverage in the state’s Medicaid program will no longer be available to as many women as it is now. Today, the program covers pregnant women and those diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer if their income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $23,340. Other women can sign up for family planning services and supplies through Medicaid if they meet the same income requirement.

The Kasich budget would ask women making more than $16,105 (which includes everyone working full-time at minimum wage) to purchase private healthcare on the open market at a higher cost, increasing the chances that they will go without vital coverage. Unintended pregnancies and a lack of prenatal care are both associated with higher rates of infant mortality, suggesting the policy could undermine efforts to bring Ohio rates down.

State Representative Emilia Sykes warns that if a woman does not purchase private coverage and becomes pregnant outside the open enrollment period (roughly from mid-November to mid-February), she will not only be unable to buy coverage but will also be locked out of Medicaid — a serious coverage gap for women and their children.

State Health Transformation Director Moody said in hearings last week that he was open to working with legislators to address this coverage gap. One way to do this would be to restore coverage for pregnant women, breast and cervical cancer and family planning services at current income levels.