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Study finds states that expanded Medicaid had fewer postpartum hospitalizations

Suhyeon Choi
A new study has found postpartum hospitalizations were lower in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility.

A new study has found states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility saw fewer postpartum hospitalizations.

The study, which was published in the journal Health Affairs this week, compared hospital data from 2010 to 2017 for four states that expanded Medicaid and four that didn’t.

One of those states was Iowa, which expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2014.

The study found the states that adopted the expansion had 17% fewer hospitalizations for mothers and babies up to 60 days postpartum.

State data show that 41% of Iowa births in 2021 were funded by Medicaid.

Maria Steenland, a research assistant professor at Brown University and one of the study’s authors, said the results open the door for further research to determine why this is happening.

"We only have hospitalization data, so we're not able to look at...outpatient care, or our emergency department care [or] to the degree to which people are receiving better, more appropriate services in the postpartum — or even in the pregnancy periods," she said.

However, Steenland said she feels her study does help affirm the importance of postpartum medical care that goes beyond 60 days.

"Our findings suggest that extending Medicaid from 60 days to one year has potential health benefits for postpartum people," she said.

Last year, Iowa lawmakers voted not to extend postpartum coverage under the state's Medicaid program from 60 days to 12 months, an option that the federal government made available to states under the American Rescue Plan Act until April 2027.

So far, lawmakers in 34 states and Washington D.C. have voted to expand postpartum coverage to 12 months.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter