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New Ohio program aims to improve maternal health care

The new program will incentivize doctor's offices to listen to feedback from Medicaid patients and connect pregnant and postpartum mothers to resources that can improve health beyond the doctor's office like housing or transportation.

The state of Ohio has launched a new program designed to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies on Medicaid.

The new program, called Comprehensive Maternal Care, will incentivize obstetrical practices to connect pregnant and postpartum Medicaid patients with resources that affect their health outside the doctor’s office, like housing, food and transportation, according to a media release.

“We think that some of them will use these resources to partner with a community health worker organization or social workers to make sure that those other needs that a woman has beyond medical care are being addressed,” said Marisa Weisel, a deputy director at the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

Medical care alone often isn't enough to ensure good health, Weisel explained.

“Often things that are sometimes thought of as outside the realm of the healthcare system, like housing and nutrition and transportation and childcare, those are the things that are really the barriers to having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy birth,” she said.

Weisel said the program, along with other initiatives, will also help address high infant mortality rates in Ohio.

“Ohio doesn't have a great track record in terms of our infant mortality rates and our premature birth rates,” she said. “This new program that just launched is one of a big package of things that we've been working on to try to improve the outcomes for moms and babies.”

Ohio’s infant mortality rate is ranked among the worst in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2020, nearly seven babies died for every 1,000 live births, data shows.

The program will also increase accountability for healthcare providers to better communicate with Medicaid patients, Weisel said.

“We heard from women in the Medicaid program that they felt like some of the barriers to having healthy pregnancies and positive birth outcomes were actually about the health care system making them feel like they were just a number or not as important of a patient because they had Medicaid coverage,” Weisel said. “With these additional resources, the practices will be required to do things like really take into account the feedback of the women they're serving”

This year, the department estimates it will spend $5 million on the program and will enroll 77 obstetrical practices across the state, the media release said.

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.