Understanding Medicaid Moms

When you think about a typical mother on Medicaid, what image comes to mind?

The first post comes from Bill Garner at The Incidental Economist, commenting on an NBER working paper, finding that an increase of $1000 in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) income is associated with a 6.7 to 10.8 percent reduction in the low birth weight rate:

Low birth weight is likely a proxy for prematurity, which is much harder to measure. Premature infants are at risk for pulmonary, vision, and neurological problems. These problems can persist through childhood and adulthood. Premature infants can require expensive hospitalizations in neonatal intensive care units…The bottom line is that redistributing income to poor families improves the health of their infants. It is, in effect, a form of prenatal care.

The second post appeared as a comment by Mark Kellen on our cosmetic surgery health alert:

As an anesthesiologist, I have conducted anesthetics for hundreds of purely cosmetic procedures. With apologies to Dr. McCanne for my lack of hard research to document my observations, about 10% of our procedures (costing $6000-$10000) were women who were on Medicaid, but somehow could come up with a large cash payment.

The world is complex.

Comments (12)

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  1. Buster says:

    The proportion of births paid for by Medicaid is about half. In some states, it’s well more than half. Something as simple as childbearing has become a major entitlement.

    The welfare states is growing, starting with the disadvantages. First, babies and their moms get Medicaid-paid labor and delivery. Then, the children qualify for Medicaid until age 18. Add to that Food Stamps, School lunches, head start, universal education, then highly-subsidized health coverage. There are earned income tax credits, Section 8 housing, Medicare and Social Security. The U.S. is becoming a Welfare State incrementally — one program at a time.

  2. Sam says:

    “When you think about a typical mother on Medicaid, what image comes to mind?”

    Nothing because I don’t categorize people and know each person’s situation is different.

    • JD says:

      Exactly. Too often we all fall into the trap of generalizing people and end up making poor judgments. Some people really need government assistance, others abuse it. Hopefully we can find a way to help the former and cut out the latter.

      • Craig says:

        While generalizing is an illogical assumption to make…has no one seen someone pay for their food at a grocery store with food stamps and has an iphone/android? How are they affording a smartphone when apparently they can’t even make enough to feed themselves…

        • Sam says:

          Again, that’s a generalization and doesn’t have a whole lot to do with “what I think about a ‘Medicaid mom’

  3. JD says:

    This is a good reason to consider Dr. Goodman’s welfare privatization plan. We don’t want people who earnestly need the money to go without, but giving the taxpayer choice in how their money is spent would help alleviate much of the abuse.

    • Sam says:

      Although perhaps the government should have some sort of verifiable program so that people are more comfortable donating to certain organizations that have passed some form of transparency screening. Too many non-profits have gone out of business due to their lack of transparency and abusing the trust from their donors.

      • JD says:

        They should definitely satisfy certain requirements to be eligible. Since the industry will still be guaranteed a certain amount of money (because we all would be required to give somewhere, there isn’t complete market freedom), there will still be opportunities for abuse. I don’t like the idea of the government having a monopoly on verification (again, abuse), but I guess that as long as the requirements are relatively lax there shouldn’t be problems.

        • Sam says:

          It’d be interesting to see if this came through and I’m sure it wouldn’t have to come down to a “monopoly” as long as the requirements are sensible, such providing transparent income tax files that prove an x amount of funds of donations go directly to the organization’s mission. Then the rest would be for the taxpayer to decide.

  4. John says:

    End Welfare, tell people to get a job, and stop stealing my money to pay for their activities

  5. Linda Gorman says:

    Birthweight varies by ethnic group. It varies with marital status. It varies by income. It varies with the season and with maternal diabetes.

    It isn’t clear that any of these potential correlates were controlled for. There isn’t even overall agreement on what adequate birthweight is.

    Ultimately, of course, none of this matters. We’re supposed to get behind ensuring that everyone gets median income. Do it for the children…