Medicaid Expansion Improves Infant Mortality for Black Babies in the Buckeye State

Outcomes in Ohio offer more evidence that the ACA helped to lessen racial disparities in care outcomes.

Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid under the ACA seems to be paying off for one of the state’s most vulnerable populations: black infants. In an opinion piece in the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Mitchell Balk and Akram Boutros, MD, point to the “atrocity” that in Cuyahoga County in 2018, black babies were four times as likely to die before turning 1-year-old than white babies.

Balk is president of the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation. Boutros is CEO of MetroHealth System. The two point to recent efforts by their organizations to close the racial disparity. They include First Year Cleveland, aimed at reducing infant mortality and the Nurse-Family Partnership, which facilitates visits by nurses to the homes of low-income women who are expecting their first child. That outreach continues for two years after birth.

The efforts “have led to measurable improvements in the health of the tiniest and most vulnerable members of our community,” Balk and Akran write. “But we are nowhere close to where we want to be. We need help.”

They take heart in a recent JAMA study showing that states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA saw “significant reductions in the disparities between black and white infants … in the rates of preterm birth and low birth weight—two leading risk factors for infant mortality.”

They urge readers to contact their elected representatives to ensure that Medicaid expansion continues “without interruption or reduction.”