ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Seven in 10 births in New Mexico are paid for by Medicaid, according to a recent state analysis.
The study by the state Legislative Finance Committee showed 71 percent of the nearly 27,800 babies born in the state during 2010 were paid for by the state and federally funded health insurance program for the poor, The Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/VpAkxz ).
The large number of Medicaid births reflects a slew of problems in New Mexico, such as high rates of unemployment, drug use, school dropout and teen pregnancy, said Peter Winograd, director of the Center for Education Policy Research at the University of New Mexico.
"I think it's a reflection of the demographic reality of New Mexico," Winograd said. "Think about an uneducated population continuing to grow and what does that do for our economic viability."
Paul Silverman, a director of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said the number indicates that a majority of New Mexico babies are born to mothers who lack the resources to give their children a good chance of success. It pointed to the need for a stronger economy that can provide residents with good jobs and health insurance, he added.
"We are either going to spiral down, or we are going to spiral up," Silverman said. "We have to take the actions that are necessary to build a private sector and create a much more diversified economy based on the private sector."
The state Human Services Department oversees Medicaid and pays premiums to four managed care organizations to provide health insurance for New Mexicans who qualify for Medicaid. About one in four New Mexicans — or 522,000 people — is enrolled in the program.
Medicaid covers 62 percent of New Mexicans 18 and younger. Those who are eligible are in families with incomes up to 235 percent of the federal poverty level — or $4,514 a month for a family of four.
Medicaid covers pregnancy-related health care for women with family incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $3,554 a month for a family of four.
Steve McKernan, CEO of University of New Mexico Hospital, said Medicaid coverage for pregnant women remains a good investment for the state because of the strong link between prenatal care and healthy births. "Women who have coverage are more likely to access care," he said. "For women that access care frequently during their pregnancies, they get better outcomes."
The four health organizations that manage Medicaid for the state paid $298 million for prenatal care for mothers and medical care for children ages 3 and younger, including delivery costs, according to the report by the Legislative Finance Committee.
Some advocates note that the cost of insuring pregnant women and children is much lower than the cost of older participants. Elderly New Mexicans, who comprise fewer than 8 percent of Medicaid enrollees this year, account for 24 percent of state Medicaid costs, the legislative report said.
Long-term care for the elderly will cost Medicaid a projected $989 million this year, up $191 million since 2010, and the average cost to Medicaid for long-term care for an elderly client is $21,468 this year, the report said.
By comparison, the cost of providing health care to children, pregnant mothers and other "physical health clients" averaged $3,156 this year, the report said.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com