Prenatal and Postpartum Care Disparities in a Large Medicaid Program

Natasha Parekh, Marian Jarlenski, David Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives Pennsylvania’s maternal mortality, infant mortality, and preterm birth rates rank 24th, 35th, and 25th in the country, and are higher among racial and ethnic minorities. Provision of prenatal and postpartum care represents one way to improve these outcomes. We assessed the extent of disparities in the provision and timeliness of prenatal and postpartum care for women enrolled in Pennsylvania Medicaid. Methods We performed a cross-sectional evaluation of representative samples of women who delivered live births from November 2011 to 2015. Our outcomes were three binary effectiveness-of-care measures: prenatal care timeliness, frequency of prenatal care, and postpartum care timeliness. Pennsylvania’s Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) were required to submit these outcomes to the state after reviewing administrative and medical records through a standardized, validated sampling process. We assessed for differences in outcomes by race, ethnicity, region, year, and MCO using logistic regression. Results We analyzed data for 12,228 women who were 49% White, 31% Black/African American, 4% Asian, and 15% Hispanic/Latina. Compared to Black/African American women, white and Asian women had higher odds of prenatal and postpartum care. Hispanic/Latina women had higher frequency of prenatal care than non-Hispanic women. Pennsylvania’s Southeast had lower prenatal care and Northwest had lower postpartum care than other regions. Prenatal care significantly decreased in 2014 and increased in 2015. We observed differences between MCOs, and as MCO performance diminished, racial disparities within each plan widened. We explored hypotheses for observed disparities in secondary analyses. Conclusions for Practice Our data demonstrate that interventions should address disparities by race, region, and MCO in equity-promoting measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Access
  • Disparities
  • Medicaid
  • Postpartum care
  • Prenatal care


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