Medicaid covers nearly half of U.S. births

Half of the births in the United States-- a large revenue generator for hospitals--are paid for by the Medicaid program, Kaiser Health News reported.

All pregnant women are eligible for Medicaid coverage if they earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Researchers had previously thought that Medicaid recipients were responsible for about 40 percent of the nation's births, but new research by George Washington University and the March of Dimes has bumped that figure to 48 percent as of 2010.

According to Kaiser Health News, the proportion of Medicaid-funded births range from about a third in the rural western states, such as Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to well over 60 percent in rural southern states, such as Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. The Pelican State had the highest rate of births covered by Medicaid: Nearly 70 percent, reported Kaiser Health News. Hawaii had the lowest rate, just more than 24 percent, according to the study.

Cynthia Pellegrini, senior vice president of public policy at the March of Dimes and a co-author of the study, said Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act will be helpful because it means more women will obtain coverage before they become pregnant, leading to better birth outcomes and healthier children.

Mississippi and Louisiana have declined to expand Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act; Arkansas is debating using the extra Medicaid dollars to provide coverage from private insurers.

The study was published in the most recent issue of the journal Women's Health Issues.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the study