Nearly one-fifth of Georgia women of reproductive age do not have insurance

close-up shot of a pregnant woman in a white dress holding her belly
Photo by Garon Piceli on Pexels.com

A new report from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families found that about 20 percent of Georgia women of childbearing age are uninsured.

The rate of uninsured women between the ages of 18 and 44 is one of the highest in the country, placing Georgia at 46thth place in a national ranking, the report says.

Nearly half of women of childbearing age who identify as Hispanic are uninsured, the report found. This is almost double the national average.

The report comes as Georgia policymakers work to improve the health of mothers and babies.

In 2020, Georgia had 24.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, slightly above the national rate. Maternal mortality rates are particularly high among black women, who face a rate of 41 deaths per 100,000 live births, the report said.

Some women and babies can get insurance through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), so the report also looks at how well these programs provide care for babies and mothers.

The information reflects the latest federal data, which is from 2019, before the pandemic.

Just over three-quarters of women on Medicaid or CHIP receive timely prenatal care, putting Georgia in the 30th place. About two-thirds of new mothers receive adequate postpartum care.

About 12.1% of newborns covered by the programs have low birth weight (below 2,500 grams), putting Georgia at 48th in the state ranking.

And just over two-thirds of Georgia children on Medicaid and CHIP receive all recommended screenings in the first 15 months of life, the report said, putting Georgia in 21st placeSt place.

“This report not only paints a bleak picture of existing gaps in health coverage for all women of reproductive age in Georgia, but also shows how the state’s poor performance on maternal and infant health issues can lead to widening of health disparities,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

“The state’s decision not to expand Medicaid continues to put mothers’ health at risk and undermines the opportunity for Georgia’s children to start healthy lives.”

Gov. Brian Kemp and other Georgia Republican leaders remain staunchly opposed to expanding Medicaid in the state, citing costs. Georgia is now one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid.

“The traditional Medicaid expansion will cause approximately 200,000 people to lose the ability to buy free health insurance,” said Kemp spokeswoman Katie Byrd.

This week, the federal government denied Kemp’s plan to create a private health insurance marketplace in Georgia. The governor’s plan would allow 50,000 uninsured Georgians to purchase private insurance, Byrd said.

Kemp has taken other steps to improve women’s health in the state, Byrd said.

The governor supported bills to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from six months to one year after birth and create supportive housing for pregnant women and mothers. It also added funding to the state budget to help mothers with heart disease, Byrd said.

The state Medicaid agency recently announced it will provide additional funding to Grady Memorial Hospital and Augusta University Medical Center to improve health outcomes, Byrd said.

This story is available through a news partnership with the Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.