In 1988 North Carolina had the nation’s highest infant mortality rate. The state decided to tackle this tragedy in a variety of ways. One approach, championed in a bipartisan effort by Republican Governor Jim Martin, was to expand Medicaid coverage to pregnant women earning up to 185 percent of federal poverty level and creating a package of programs within Medicaid to ensure good maternity care and a safe delivery.
Pregnant women who qualify now get excellent care in Medicaid and we have made some progress with our infant mortality rates. The legislature is now set to roll back that progress.
One of the Senate budget provisions moves Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women down from 185 percent of federal poverty level to 133 percent of federal poverty level (about $15,000 in annual income). The rest of the provision is a poorly constructed attempt to provide political cover for this mean spirited move.