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STUDY SAYS HEALTH INSURANCE FOR MATERNITY CARE LACKING; LARGE PERCENTAGE OF NORTH CAROLINA WOMEN WITHOUT COVERAGE

 RALEIGH, N.C., March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a recent study conducted for the Department of Insurance, 22.7 percent of the North Carolinian women of childbearing age lack health insurance coverage for prenatal and maternity care.
 The study of maternity care coverage, conducted by health policy researchers of the the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was ordered in 1991 by the General Assembly's Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.
 "This is a serious situation," said Insurance Commissioner Jim Long. "Lack of health insurance generally shuts the door to preventive health services. Given North Carolina's poor track record on infant deaths, this is an intolerable situation."
 The study indicates that in North Carolina, more than 357,000 of the 1,571,816 women aged 15-44 lack health insurance benefits for maternity and delivery care. The data indicate that younger, unemployed, non- white and less-educated women are especially likely to lack insurance coverage for maternity and prenatal care.
 Researchers analyzed data collected by the Department of Insurance's Medical Database Commission, the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources' Division of Maternal and Child Health, the Department of Human Resources' Division of Medical Assistance, the U.S. Bureau of the Census and health insurance carriers in North Carolina.
 North Carolina has consistently had one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the nation. The state's rate is worse than that of any industrialized nation and equals that of many third world nations. The rate among black North Carolinians is much worse than that of whites. Lack of prenatal care is one of the primary reasons cited by health experts for poor pregnancy outcomes (a term that includes such related problems as infant mortality, prematurity, and low birth weight). Other factors, such as teenage pregnancy and poverty, also play important roles.
 The research team examined data for the period July 1990 to June 1991. During that period of time, as many as 20,000 of the 102,309 births which took place in North Carolina were not covered by insurance.
 The study indicates that the percentage of North Carolina women obtaining prenatal/maternity coverage through the Medicaid program is growing. According to the state Division of Medical Assistance, during calendar year 1992, 42 percent of all live births in North Carolina were covered by the state's Medicaid program.
 The figures on uncovered births, combined with the growth in public coverage, indicate that the percentage of North Carolina women able to obtain private coverage is rapidly shrinking.
 Said Long: "This study quantifies the substantial gaps that exist in our state's system of maternity care. Given what we know about both the social and financial impact of poor prenatal care, the scale of the problem is highly disturbing."
 "Clearly, we need to change the way we deliver and pay for health care services," said Long. "We need a greater emphasis on preventive care and broader access to health care coverage. Every day that we wait costs our citizens money and threatens the future of our state's children.
 "I applaud the General Assembly for addressing these issues in the current debate over health care reform. I urge the legislature to act quickly, and I pledge the full support of the Department of Insurance as they take on the daunting task of reforming our state's health care system."
 -0- 3/24/93
 /CONTACT: Paul Mahoney, N.C. Department of Insurance, 919-733-5238/


CO: N.C. Department of Insurance ST: North Carolina IN: INS SU:

MM-SB -- CH004 -- 9105 03/24/93 12:28 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 24, 1993
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