Academic Minute Podcast

Laura Wherry, New York University – Immigrants and Postpartum Care in the United States

On New York University Week: Immigrant parents also need postpartum care in the United States, but it can be hard to come by.

Laura Wherry, associate professor of economics and public service, discusses why.

Laura Wherry’s primary area of research focuses on the changing role of the Medicaid program and its impact on access to health care and health. Recent work examines the early effects of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansions, as well as the longer-term effects of several large expansions in Medicaid targeting low-income pregnant women and children in the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to joining NYU, she was an assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Michigan. Laura received her Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School and her B.A. from the College of William and Mary.

Immigrants and Postpartum Care in the United States

Nearly 1 in 4 births in the US is to an immigrant parent. Medicaid –public health insurance for low-income people -covers 40% of births in the US. However, federal policy bars undocumented, and many recently documented immigrants, from pregnancy Medicaid coverage. Some states use alternative funding sources to offer coverage to otherwise ineligible immigrants, creating differences across states in pregnant immigrant’s access to public insurance.

In this study led by my collaborator Maria Steenland, we wanted to find out whether low-income immigrants in states with less restrictive coverage were more likely to receive postpartum care, a recommended health check for recently pregnant people around 4-6 weeks postpartum.

Our research team gathered information on public health insurance policies for postpartum care in 20 states with large immigrant populations. We then classified states according to whether or not they restricted recently documented or undocumented immigrants from coverage for postpartum care.

We next constructed a new data source that linked information the use of postpartum care by people who recently gave birth to information on whether the parent was an immigrant.

We found that immigrants were less likely to receive postpartum care if they lived in states with restricted public health insurance for immigrants. Low-income immigrants in states that restricted both recently documented and undocumented immigrants had the lowest use of postpartum care. This relationship remained significant when we controlled for other differences across states in access to postpartum care.

Our findings indicate that restrictions in public health insurance for immigrants may be an important barrier to receipt of recommended postpartum care and improved maternal health among immigrants.

Read More:

  1. Article that is described in the Academic Minute: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2807288
  2. Op-Ed written by some of its authors: https://www.statnews.com/2023/07/28/maternal-health-programs-immigrant-access/

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