RALEIGH: Obstetricians and pediatricians from across North Carolina shared with Governor Roy Cooper and Secretary Mandy Cohen of the Department of Health and Human Services the urgency to close the health care coverage gap in North Carolina. The roundtable meeting focused on how Medicaid expansion can help reduce the rate of infant mortality and preterm and low weight births.
“Expanding Medicaid is a vital strategy to reduce infant mortality and keep babies healthy,” Governor Cooper said. “Other states have seen results when they expand Medicaid and it’s time for North Carolina to do the same.”
“I had a patient come to me who was diabetic and could not afford her insulin due to lack of coverage. She was already pregnant with very poorly controlled diabetes. The baby had a birth defect where the lower spine does not develop properly and died. Had the patient had adequate management of her diabetes prior to pregnancy, her birth outcomes will be as good as any healthy woman,” said Dr. M. Kathryn Menard.
Preconception health care during the reproductive years reduces the likelihood that a baby is born preterm, with a low birthweight or a birth defect. Yet 14 percent of women in North Carolina are uninsured, ranking the state ninth in the nation for women’s lack of access to health insurance.
States that have expanded Medicaid are seeing improved birth outcomes. Infant mortality declined at a greater rate and with greater declines in African American infants. In addition, helping parents access health insurance through Medicaid is shown to increase the likelihood their children will receive preventative health care services, such as annual well child visits. Expanding Medicaid in North Carolina would provide an estimated 500,000 North Carolinians with access to affordable health care.
“We have a system right now that doesn’t make sense. The woman doesn’t have access to health insurance until she gets pregnant and can then be eligible for Medicaid. However, healthy pregnancy doesn’t start once you become pregnant, it starts years before that,” said Dr. Kenya McNeil-Trice.
Nine percent of North Carolina babies are born at a low birth weight and 13 percent are born preterm. Babies born too early have higher rates of death and disability. North Carolina has the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the country with rates 2.5 times higher for African American births than white births.
Following the roundtable, participants met with legislators to urge them to close the health coverage gap. Attendees included:
- Dr. Mary Catherine Brake Turner Livingston, Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine-Pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine/Vidant Medical Center
- Dr. Theresa Flynn, Pediatrician, Wake County Human Services Child Health Clinic
- Elizabeth Hudgins, Executive Director, NC Pediatric Society
- Dr. Richard Kirsch, OB/Gyn
- Dr. Elizabeth Livingston, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, DukeHealth
- Dr. Larry Mann, Pediatrician, Jeffers Mann & Artman Pediatrics
- Dr. Connette McMahon, OB/Gyn, Jones Center for Women’s Health and Mind, Body, Spirit Women’s Health
- Dr. Kenya McNeil-Trice, Professor and Vice Chair of Education in Pediatrics, University of North Carolina
- Dr. M. Kathryn Menard, Distinguished Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UNC School of Medicine
- Dr. Anna Miller-Fitzwater, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Wake Forest University School of Medicine
- Dr. Dave Tayloe, Pediatrician, Goldsboro Pediatrics