Importance of Medicaid as an Entitlement Program to Address Reproductive Health

Executive Summary

NHeLP Fact Sheet on The Importance of Medicaid as an Entitlement Program to Address Reproductive Health Disparities.

Introduction
Women of reproductive age experience a variety of health disparities and heavily rely on Medicaid to prevent unintended pregnancies and receive screenings and treatments for breast and cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and HIV/AIDS. Medicaid coverage is also critical to healthier pregnancies and improved birth outcomes.
The structure of Medicaid as an ?entitlement? program is essential to its ability to provide reproductive health services to low-income women and women of color. The federal entitlement gives all eligible individuals a legal right to enroll and access health coverage, services, and benefits.1 Funding is not capped for these services and can be adjusted to meet increased demand during times of economic recession.
A number of Congressional proposals in recent years have sought to transform Medicaid from an entitlement program into a more limited program. The proposals generally offer states a fixed amount of money that would result in restricted enrollment and services. Low-income women residing in poorer states would suffer greater harm because states would resort to cutting their Medicaid programs to avoid overspending their allotted federal funding.
Continuous insurance coverage helps to ensure that women of color and other low-income women have access to reproductive health and primary care services to prevent and address health disparities. Women of color disproportionately have less income and are likely to experience significant gaps in health access, quality of care and health outcomes. Proposals that dismantle the current entitlement structure of Medicaid will only curtail the availability of coverage for health services in these communities.
This issue brief includes a discussion of various legislative proposals that would negatively impact the program?s enrollees, particularly low-income women and women of color, and an appendix with an overview of the current Medicaid program. Although the current structure of the Medicaid program remains intact for the moment, it is important to be aware of how potential changes to Medicaid would harm enrollees.
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