The impact of welfare reform on insurance coverage before pregnancy and the timing of prenatal care initiation
Objective. This study investigates the impact of welfare reform on insurance coverage before pregnancy and on first-trimester initiation of prenatal care (PNC) among pregnant women eligible for Medicaid under welfare-related eligibility criteria. Data Sources. We used pooled data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System for eight states (AL, FL, ME, NY, OK, SC, WA, and WV) from 1996 through 1999. Study Design. We estimated a two-part logistic model of insurance coverage before pregnancy and first-trimester PNC initiation. The impact of welfare reform on insurance coverage before pregnancy was measured by marginal effects computed from coefficients of an interaction term for the postreform period and welfare-related eligibility and on PNC initiation by the same interaction term and the coefficients of insurance coverage adjusted for potential simultaneous equation bias. We compared the estimates from this model with results from simple logistic, ordinary least squares, and two-stage least squares models. Principal Findings. Welfare reform had a significant negative impact on Medicaid coverage before pregnancy among welfare-related Medicaid eligibles. This drop resulted in a small decline in their first-trimester PNC initiation. Enrollment in Medicaid before pregnancy was independent of the decision to initiate PNC, and estimates of the effect of a reduction in Medicaid coverage before pregnancy on PNC initiation were consistent over the single- and two-stage models. Effects of private coverage were mixed. Welfare reform had no impact on first-trimester PNC beyond that from reduced Medicaid coverage in the pooled regression but separate state-specific regressions suggest additional effects from time and income constraints induced by welfare reform may have occurred in some states. Conclusions. Welfare reform had significant adverse effects on insurance coverage and first-trimester PNC initiation among our nation's poorest women of childbearing age. Improved outreach and insurance options for these women are needed to meet national health goals.