New report finds alarming trends in maternal and infant health in Idaho, calls for improved health care access

By Ivy Smith, health policy specialist for Idaho Voices for Children

Infant mortality in Idaho increased by 18 percent and maternal mortality by a whopping 121.5 percent from 2019 to 2021, according to the Idaho Maternal and Infant Health Report 2023 by Idaho Kids Covered, a statewide coalition of health care advocates supported by Ida stakeholders. . Idaho Kids Covered originally published the Idaho Maternal and Infant Health Report in the fall of 2022. A year later, maternal and infant health needs in Idaho have only grown. But when we look at state trends, almost all health information The activity included in our previous report has continued in the wrong direction. The report paints an alarming portrait of Idahos maternal and infant health landscape and outlines policy recommendations to ensure that Idahoan mothers and babies receive the life-saving care they need, when they need it.

The report found that Idaho has continued to move in the wrong direction on key health indicators, including maternal and infant mortality, postpartum depression, premature and low-birth-weight babies and access to childbirth. About 56% of pregnancy-related deaths in 2021 occurred between 43 and 365 days after birth; and 25% of mothers in Idaho experienced moderate to severe postpartum depression within three months of pregnancy, nearly double the national average. Idaho is one of only four states that has not extended Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to a full year, and recently became the only state in the country without Maternal Mortality Review Committee. Additionally, Idahos Medicaid income eligibility criteria for pregnant and postpartum women ranks last in the nation and has not been updated since 1990. Raising the income eligibility level for pregnant and postpartum women to the national average of 205% of FPL, expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage. in, and reinstating the Maternal Mortality Review Committee would help address the serious maternal and infant health crisis in our state. Increasing access to care would ensure that mothers in Idaho, both during pregnancy and in the critical months of labor and delivery, have continued access to the life-saving care they need, when they need it, and would help avoid preventable maternal deaths.

The prospects for children’s health and access to care were also alarming. Idaho ranks second last in the nation in providing affordable health insurance for children. According to the report, 85% of Idaho’s children missed physician-recommended developmental screenings in 2021. Additionally, Idaho’s CHIP children’s income eligibility criteria have not been updated since 2004. There are an estimated 28,400 uninsured children in Idaho, most of whose families earn slightly more than that. income limits. Almost half (43.5%) of Idahos infants and toddlers live in low-income households. Idaho families are struggling financially with rising gas, grocery, child care and other daily expenses. Raising CHIP income limits so more Idaho children can access care is a smart investment in our states future because Medicaid coverage is linked to children’s health and educational outcomes.

As policymakers face Idaho’s growing maternal and child health care needs, policy solutions that prioritize access to consistent health care and reliable care are vital to the health and well-being of Idahoan families. There is a glimmer of hope that Idaho leaders will take action to address this crisis before it gets any worse. Idahos Department of Health and Welfare has requested funds in its budget to implement 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage, but that is just the first step and there are many more hurdles to overcome.

Let’s hope Idaho leaders continue to expand postpartum coverage and increase pregnancy and child care eligibility during the upcoming legislative session, because this crisis can no longer be ignored.

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