Study: Benefits of early childhood access to Medicaid extend for generations
- Access to health services in utero and during early childhood improves not only the health outcomes of those children but of their offspring as well, in terms of higher average birth weight and reduced incidence of very low birth weight, a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds.
- The researchers analyzed data in the 1994-2015 Vital Statistics Natality files to see the impact of an individual’s early Medicaid eligibility on later offspring’s health at birth. All of the infants’ mothers were born between 1979 and 1986, when changes in eligibility rules led to big uptick in prenatal Medicaid coverage.
- They found that a 10% rise in the first generation’s in utero Medicaid eligibility raises the second generation’s average birth weight by 4.4 grams and lowers the incidence of very low birth weight by 0.1%.
Investing in prenatal care has an impact beyond the treated generation, the study concludes.
“Generational persistence in the impacts of early life environments suggest that historical differences in fetal health conditions between advantaged and disadvantaged groups may undermine contemporaneous efforts to close health and economic gaps,” the researchers write. “At the same time, our results indicate that early life health investments have payoffs that extend well beyond those that social policymakers usually consider.”
Other studies have shown that the Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP) helps reduce hospitalizations and child deaths, while improving quality of care.
The study comes as Republican lawmakers are looking to cut certain funds from Medicaid — efforts that would strip millions of Americans of insurance coverage and could leave hospitals to cope with higher numbers of uncompensated care. “Children, the elderly, the disabled, and others from our most vulnerable populations would all be affected by these deep budget cuts,” Joanna Hiatt Kim, vice president of policy at the American Hospital Association, told Healthcare Dive recently.
Under a new Obamacare repeal bill sponsored by GOP Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.), Medicaid funding would be cut similar to earlier ACA repeal attempts. Medicaid expansion would end and money would be shifted to the states in the form of block grants.
Realizing the benefits of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, some states are adopting new safety net legislation. Nevada, for example, recently passed a bill allowing uninsured residents of the state to join a Medicaid plan regardless of income level. Meanwhile, California lawmakers are debating single-payer healthcare system for that state.
- The National Bureau of Economic Research Multi-generational Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net: Early Life Exposure to Medicaid and the Next Generation’s Health