By Dawn Godbolt, Ph.D.
Medicaid is absolutely essential for minority women and their families. Minority women are underpaid in comparison to other groups, lack access to care through private insurers, and have worse birth outcomes than their White counterparts. Given that women of color face greater barriers to coverage than most groups, Medicaid is indispensable in providing access to treatment and preventative care.
While Black and Brown women are more likely to be employed than White women, they are more likely to be underemployed, i.e. engaged in low-wage jobs that do not have health insurance benefits. The lack of access to care through an employer and private insurance makes Medicaid crucial for Black and Brown women. More than half of all minority children are covered by Medicaid.
Forty percent of Black families are headed by single working mothers, and 30 percent of those families are impoverished. In 2015, the wage gap was especially severe for minority women, with the exception of Asian women, who made 84 percent of White men’s earnings. In comparison, White women earned 75 percent, Black women 61 percent, and Latinas earned 55 percent of White men’s earnings.
Minority women tend to have worse health outcomes than their White counterparts. With the exception of Asian American women, they have higher rates of cervical cancer, are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at younger ages, and have higher rates of obesity and hypertension than Whites. Minority women also tend to earn less money and have less access to health insurance through private insurers, despite having higher rates of employment than White women. As a result, almost a third of Black and Hispanic women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, which gives them access to essential prenatal care.
Medicaid provides coverage for women’s health care, including sexually transmitted infection tests and treatment, cancer screenings, breast exams, and prenatal and postpartum care. With the Black infant mortality rate twice that of Whites, Black infants 3.5 times more likely to die due to complications related to low birth weights, and Black infants twice as likely to die from SIDS, Medicaid is essential for Black and Brown women’s maternal and infant wellbeing.
This article was excerpted from Medicaid: America’s Largest Health Insurer