Will Medicaid Babies ‘Pay for Themselves’?

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation (Utah and New Mexico data for 2015; Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas data for 2014, Arizona data for 2013)

Suggestion for a gutsy candidate looking to become the next governor: Pledge that by the end of your administration, fewer than 50 percent of the Land of Enchantment’s newborns will come into the world on the taxpayer’s dime.

The news that New Mexico has more of its babies born on Medicaid than all other states won’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention. (Several of our neighbors, as the graph above shows, fare substantially better.) But it does illustrate the extend to which welfarism is a way of life in the Land of Enchantment. And with a dismal economy, now marked by the worst unemployment rate in the nation, Medicaid’s share of births is likely to grow.

Not too long ago, we were told by the usual suspects — Winthrop Quigley, Lee Reynis, New Mexico Voices for Children — that Medicaid expansion would “pay for itself.” Serious policy analysts knew that claim was nonsense, and our well-justified skepticism has been confirmed again and again.

But fiscal policy aside, the human toll of Medicaid expansion must not be overlooked. Brought into the world on welfare, it’s a near-certainty that many of the state’s Medicaid babies will grow up, and remain, trapped in the dungeon of dependency. Is there a courageous candidate willing to admit as much, publicly — and commit to taking the steps needed to turn the trend around?

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10 Replies to “Will Medicaid Babies ‘Pay for Themselves’?”

  1. It would be interesting to know how many of the Medicaid babies in N.M. are being born to unmarried parents. As the RGF and others have reported, if a child is raised in a single parent home, there is a one in three chance that the child will be raised in poverty. If the child is raised in a two parent home, the poverty statistic falls to 9%. I think well over 40% of the children in N.M. are being raised in single parent homes (national average is about 33%).

  2. First, NM Voices said that the ACA–not the Medicaid expansion–would pay for itself. (Go back and read the op-ed you link to.) Second, the Medicaid expansion did not change eligibility for childbirth. In fact, in FY13 82% of births in NM were covered under Medicaid (see this LFC report, page 6: https://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/lfc/lfcdocs/perfaudit/Early%20Childhood%20Services%20Accountability%20Report%20Card%20-%20Gap%20Analysis%20and%20Spending%20Plan.pdf) — so it looks like the ACA has improved rates of private insurance coverage for births by 10%. Third, ensuring that children have pre- and post-natal care saves the state money in the short and long terms.

    As for Charles’ comment: according to the CDC, 51% of ALL babies in NM are born to unmarried parents. But that doesn’t mean that the child is not raised in a two-parent home. Further, if parental marital status was static, you’d expect a similar percentage of NM children would be living in single-parent families. However, the percentage of NM children living in single-parent families is much smaller (39%, according to the Census).

    1. Wow, where to begin?

      First, Obamacare, as is now abundantly clear, was more about growing the Medicaid rolls than insuring the uninsured. If Obamacare = Medicaid expansion isn’t the exact formula, it’s pretty close. A distinction without much of a difference, and Jordan’s op-ed claimed that “new state and local tax revenue created by all of these new jobs and economic activity will more than pay for all of the new spending.” It didn’t. And it won’t.

      Second, if you did a little more research — and used sources that are more credible than the Legislative Finance Committee — you’d find that the 2013 data on Medicaid births in New Mexico, which evidently came from “HSD,” are an anomaly. New Mexico’s Medicaid birth rate was 54.8 percent in 2008, for example, and 57.5 percent in 2010.

      Third, you might want to read up on the difference between “percent” and “percentage point.”

      Fourth, “ensuring that children have pre- and post-natal care saves the state money in the short and long terms” — evidence?

  3. For someone who wants “evidence” you’re short on offering citations yourself. Regardless of what the rate of Medicaid-covered births was in NM in the past, the fact remains that the eligibility level for Medicaid for pregnant women in NM has not changed under Obamacare. The expansion covers adults up to 138% of poverty. Eligibility for pregnancy & birth in NM is (and was before the expansion) 250% of poverty. So, your thesis that Obamacare is to blame for what you claim is an increase in Medicaid-covered births is faulty at the start. And I’m not going to look up research for you on how covering pregnancy and birth by Medicaid is cost-effective. Women who do not receive prenatal care are more likely to have low birth-weight babies and deliver prematurely–both of which put the child at a much higher risk of having (expensive) complications, developmental delays, and health problems throughout life.

    1. You might want to look up — since you don’t appear to be aware of — the “woodwork effect.” Expanding eligibility is not the only reason more people are on Medicaid in New Mexico. The rabid advertising of expansion (“come on down and get on the dole”) put many previously eligible on the rolls.

      If Medicaid is so wonderful at providing pre-natal services, why does the United States have the worst infant-mortality rate in the developed world? As the Washington Post noted, “A baby born in the U.S. is nearly three times as likely to die during her first year of life as one born in Finland or Japan.” As a paper published by the NBER two years ago noted, “infants born to white, college-educated, married women in the U.S. have mortality rates that are essentially indistinguishable from a similar advantaged demographic in … Finland.” Infant outcomes are worst for those at the low end of socioeconomic status — exactly the cohort targeted by Medicaid.

      Perhaps — and I realize that “progressive” ideology doesn’t permit any thinking outside its tiny bubble — welfarism incentivizes destructive behaviors?

      1. Thanks for giving me one of the best laughs I’ve had in a while! Hearing a Libertarian hold up Finland and Japan as models for great health outcomes — both of which not only have universal health care but also guaranteed paid sick leave (including maternity leave) — made my day! Thanks!
        BTW, I suppose you’ve forgotten all the Salud billboards targeting pregnant women that we used to see everywhere. I haven’t.

        1. Nice trick there, dodging the infant-mortality data.

          As for Finland, Japan, etc., if you think single-payer rather than profound cultural differences — diet, exercise, social connectivity, violence, substance abuse — explains their better health outcomes … well, I’ve literally run out of things to say. Wow. You really have no interest in “root causes,” do you?

  4. Regarding Ms Kayne’s statement that the ACA has improved private insurance coverage: Not really, as most people on an ACA plan are being heavily subsidized, so to me that is almost the same as medicaid.
    NM is in the mindset of government dependency and entitlement. Instead personal responsibility should be taught in schools and by public announcement ads because apparently parents don’t communicate this to kids anymore. They need to know that when they grow up they are expected to provide for themselves and their family if they choose to have one.
    I have to admit that my blood pressure goes up when a co-worker or someone I know is already on Medicaid and receiving other government benefits as well, announces she is pregnant again. Oh, everyone is so excited and congratulates her, while I think that is not responsible. Of course it’s not the innocent baby that should be penalized, but benefits should not increase for a family that expands when they are already receiving benefits.
    I would also be interested in knowing how aggressively our state goes after the father of single mother children for reimbursement of all costs of raising that baby—birth, food stamps, clothing, medical care etc. Personally I think that if we targeted the young men of this state about the consequences of impregnating a girl (that he would being paying for 18 years) our unwed birth rate would tank. The financial costs to the father would have to be enforced.

  5. I have one short and to the point statement. Many of us believe the Constitution does not allow the Federal Government to take tax payer money and give it to healthcare or other peoples kids. Medicaid should be ended.

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