Medicaid Enrollment Numbers Offer Hope for Maternal Mortality Rate

Aug 8, 2019

The crisis of maternal mortality among African-American women in Virginia continues to raise alarm bells among state officials, although a new report has some good news on the subject.

New numbers from the Department of Medical Assistance Services shows a dramatic spike in the number of women who now have health insurance in Virginia because of Medicaid expansion. Especially young women age 19 to 34.

Delegate Cia Price is a Democrat from Newport News who says that might be a good sign in the ongoing struggle to address the disproportionate number of black women who die in childbirth. 

“We do know that this maternal health crisis is attacking the black community in disproportionate ways," Price explains. "But it’s across educational levels, economic levels, all kinds of backgrounds.”

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But just how many African-American women now have access to health insurance because of Medicaid expansion?

Freddy Mejia at the Commonwealth Institute says state officials could keep better records on race. 

“We have yet to see any enrollment data by race. So while we can certainly hope that a lot of women of color are being covered through Medicaid," Mejia says. "We don’t have any certainty as to what that actually looks like.”

Currently, black mothers are 3.4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. But now that more young women in Virginia have access to reproductive health and contraceptive options, many are hopeful that mortality rate might not be so high in the future.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.