Source: News & Observer, Editorial page ⇥
While Republican leaders in Raleigh refuse to expand Medicaid, Dr. Dorothy DeGuzman spends her days in rural Yancey County dealing with the consequences.
DeGuzman works for Celo Health Center in Burnsville, a nonprofit, community-owned family practice that serves low-income people in the mountainous county north of Asheville. Most of the center’s patients do not have private health insurance, and their health reflects a lack of access to doctors and preventative programs that would help reduce obesity, hypertension, smoking and substance abuse.
The medical-care gap shows up most profoundly in the pregnant women DeGuzman sees. …
Low-income pregnant women qualify for Medicaid during their pregnancies and for a brief period afterward. But their lack of insurance before conception and after the birth affects their health and that of their babies.
Expanding Medicaid to include some 500,000 North Carolinians who would qualify under the Affordable Care Act would improve the health of mothers – and fathers. DeGuzman says that improvement would increase the chances of a child being born at full term without injury or birth defects that ultimately cost the taxpayers in hospital care and education expenses.
“There is more and more data that preconception health is very important to the health of the baby,” DeGuzman says. “I think (Medicaid expansion) could improve infant mortality and probably maternal mortality as well.”
North Carolina could use some improvement in infant mortality. It stands at 7.1 deaths per 1,000 babies. That compares with 6.0 nationally and with rates as low as 4.8 in California and 4.4 in Massachusetts, two states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to include all low-income adults.
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