Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Medicaid Pays for almost Half of Deliveries

In the United States...
41 percent of babies are born to unmarried women, up from 11 percent in 1970
28 percent of children live in a single-parent family, up from 12 percent in 1970
22 percent of children are poor, up from 15 percent in 1970

What if these problems have the same root cause—the dysfunctional American health insurance system? New data being collected from birth certificates suggest that, in fact, this might be the case.

Among babies born in 2011, Medicaid paid for fully 45 percent of deliveries. This figure almost equals the 46 percent of deliveries paid for by private health insurance. Medicaid is the government's health insurance program for the poor. With a normal hospital delivery averaging $9,000, the many young adults who do not have employer-provided health insurance (48 percent of the nation's 18-to-34-year-olds) are making a rational economic choice to stay single as they become parents. If they married, the combined income of husband and wife—even if they earned no more than minimum wage—would boost their household income above the Medicaid threshold. For many young adults, marriage would result in financial ruin because of the lack of health insurance.

As the Affordable Care Act unfolds, it may have the unforeseen benefit of reducing out-of-wedlock births, single-parent families, and childhood poverty. By mandating maternity coverage in health insurance plans, and by subsidizing health insurance for low-income workers, getting married before having a baby may begin to make sense again.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Newly Released Data from the Revised U.S. Birth Certificate, 2011

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