The good news is that poor women are having healthier babies, which is particularly important for states such as South Carolina, which has pockets of heavy poverty and almost a fifth of its population without health insurance. (I don’t know how much that number has changed, if at all, since the implementation of the Affordable Care act given that we didn’t set up our own exchange and refused the Medicaid expansion.)
This is the type of trend everyone should want to see continued. The improvement is not a result of the ACA. Researchers say it is caused by a variety of policies (story below), but that access to better health care is making a difference. The ACA is increasing access to the health care system – particularly for the poor – so it doesn’t take a leap to believe that massive policy will make it more likely that poor mothers will have healthier babies for some time to come.
One more thing: I disagree vehemently with Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to deny a few hundred thousand or maybe half a million poor people health insurance through the Medicaid expansion embedded in the ACA, funds that could also create 44,000 in South Carolina between now and 2020, according to a University of South Carolina study. She has denied the expansion for nakedly partisan reasons.
But Tony Keck, director of South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, believes he can increase access to the health care system for the poor through means other than insurance. He told me that in five years we’ll see the results. Either way, it is bad that so many poor South Carolinians are being left behind now. But given the political environment in the state, a knee-jerk partisan opposition to everything President Obama touches, I pray Keck is right.
Even if he is and finds a way to improve health care access for the poor without increasing insurance, there are other factors that can mitigate its effectiveness – like violence and a harmful environment – if we don’t deal with those as well.
From the Washington Post report about this trend:
Experts say health interventions alone have had limited impact, in part because poor women face so many other pressures harmful to the health of a fetus, from pollution to stress to violence.