Association of Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas With Postpartum Coverage, Outpatient Care, and Racial Disparities

JAMA Health Forum. 2021 Dec 17;2(12):e214167. doi: 10.1001/jamahealthforum.2021.4167. eCollection 2021 Dec.


Importance: Non-Hispanic Black individuals are disproportionally covered by Medicaid during pregnancy and, compared with non-Hispanic White individuals, have higher rates of postpartum coverage loss and mortality. Expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act may have increased continuity of coverage and access to care in the critical postpartum period in expansion states.

Objective: To examine the association of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas with continuous postpartum coverage, postpartum health care use, and change in racial disparities in the study outcomes.

Design setting and participants: This cohort study with a difference-in-differences analysis compared persons with Medicaid and commercially financed childbirth, stratified by race, using Arkansas' All-Payer Claims Database for persons with a childbirth between 2013 and 2015. Race and ethnicity from birth certificate data were classified as Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black (hereafter Black), non-Hispanic White (hereafter White), and other (including Asian, Native American or Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander) or unknown race. Data were analyzed between June 2020 and August 2021.

Exposures: Medicaid-paid childbirth after January 1, 2014.

Main outcomes and measures: Continuous health insurance coverage and the number of outpatient visits during the first 6 months postpartum.

Results: A total of 60 990 childbirths (mean [SD] age of birthing person, 27 [5.3] years; 67% White, 22% Black, and 7% Hispanic) were included, among which 72.3% were paid for by Medicaid and 27.7% were paid for by a commercial payer. Medicaid expansion in Arkansas was associated with a 27.8 (95% CI, 26.1-29.5) percentage point increase in continuous insurance coverage and an increase in outpatient visits of 0.9 (95% CI, 0.7-1.1) during the first 6 months postpartum, representing relative increases of 54.9% and 75.0%, respectively. Racial disparities in postpartum coverage decreased from 6.3 (95% CI, 3.9-8.7) percentage points before expansion to -2.0 (95% CI, -2.8 to -1.2) percentage points after expansion. However, disparities in outpatient care between Black and White individuals persisted after Medicaid expansion (preexpansion difference, 0.4 [95% CI, 0.2-0.6] visits; postexpansion difference, 0.5 [95% CI, 0.4-0.6] visits).

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study with a difference-in-differences analysis of 60 990 childbirths, Medicaid expansion was associated with higher rates of postpartum coverage and outpatient visits and lower racial and ethnic disparities in postpartum coverage. However, disparities in outpatient visits between Black and White individuals were unchanged. Additional policy approaches are needed to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in postpartum care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care
  • Arkansas
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medicaid*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • United States