Monday, October 31, 2016

State Medicaid Programs Offering Contraception Immediately After Birth

New York Times (October 28, 2016): Medicaid Finds Opportune Time to Offer Birth Control: Right After Birth, by Sabrina Tavernise:

South Carolina and several other states are offering access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to women who qualify for Medicaid right after birth.  

The idea behind the policy is to seize the day when a woman is sure to be interacting with the health care system — at the birth of a child. It is also the moment she is most likely to be insured: Pregnant women who are poor and do not have insurance are put on Medicaid temporarily. Birth control is usually discussed in a checkup about six weeks after delivery, but a majority of women on Medicaid, which covers 57 percent of births in South Carolina, do not return, officials said.

LARCs are often more convenient for women --  they last for up to five years and do not require refilling prescriptions or remembering to take medication, like the pill.  However, they are expensive and can require several trips to the doctor.  Since South Carolina initiated the program in 2012, unplanned pregnancies have decreased by 6%.  Nineteen other states have adopted similar policies.

Expanding the number of women who have access to the method of contraception that is best for them is a positive development, but some reproductive justice groups warn that states must ensure that women do not feel coerced.  “The words voluntary and reversible are very important,” said Dr. Lisa Waddell, who works on community health and prevention at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

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