Despite continued advancements in medical care, rates of maternal mortality and morbidity and pre-term birth have been rising in the U.S. Maternal and infant mortality rates in the U.S. are far higher than those in similarly large and wealthy countries and stark racial disparities in maternal and infant health persist. Improving maternal and infant health is key for preventing unnecessary illness and death and advancing overall population health. Moreover, growing calls for racial justice and the disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for people of color have brought a heightened focus to health disparities, including the inequities in maternal and infant health. In particular, there has been broader recognition of the principles of reproductive justice, which emphasize the role that the social determinants of health and other factors play in reproductive health for communities of color.

A range of initiatives are underway that are designed to improve maternal and infant health and reduce disparities. Medicaid is key in these efforts given the substantial role the program plays in covering low-income pregnant women and children, particularly among people of color. This brief provides a summary of Medicaid’s role for pregnant women and infants and key Medicaid initiatives to improve maternal and infant health.

Authors: Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)

Publication Date: November 10, 2020

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