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Study: Medicaid Expansion Tied to Drops in Maternal, Infant Mortality Rates

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Oklahoma’s maternal and infant mortality rates are 34th and 43rd in the U.S.

Researchers report Medicaid expansion could make a difference.

Reviews found Medicaid expansion states saw infant mortality rates fall 50 percent more than states that did not expand Medicaid and saw maternal mortality rate declines of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 women.

Georgetown University Center for Children and Families’ Adam Searing said part of that is more women having access to care.

"Mothers had early initiation of prenatal care. There was also better care for women of childbearing age in these states before they became pregnant — better screenings, better prenatal vitamins. And overall, there were lower rates of maternal mortality in expansion states," Searing said.

In non-expansion states like Oklahoma, women can get pregnancy care through Medicaid from when they’re pregnant until 60 days after birth. Lucia DiVenere with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists saidwomen in expansion states don’t lose coverage after 60 days.

"In addition to the array of physical, social and psychological changes that follow childbirth, women can also experience sudden and unexpected pregnancy complications, from excessive bleeding to postpartum depression," DiVenere said.

DiVenere said one in three maternal deaths happens within a year after delivery.

Center for Children and Families Executive Director Joan Alker said by being among six states considering work requirements while not expanding Medicaid, Oklahoma is going in the wrong direction.

"Those states, because they haven’t expanded Medicaid, would only seek to impose this work requirement on very poor mothers, very poor parents — disproportionately, African-American, a number of those states — and this will make the situation markedly worse," Alker said.

Currently, Oklahoma’s maternal mortality rate is 23.4 per 100,000 women, and its infant mortality rate is 7.4 per 1,000.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.