One of the main features of Obamacare -- providing insurance for adults under age 26 through their parents' health plan -- allowed many pregnant young women to obtain prenatal care, new research shows.
The study looked at nearly 1.4 million births for 24- and 25-year-old women in the United States from 2009 to 2013.
"Compared with 2009, private insurance payment for births increased" by 2013, said a team led by Jamie Daw of Harvard Medical School's department of health care policy.
And that may have meant more healthy newborns, her team added.
The Affordable Care Act's "dependent coverage provision was associated with increased private insurance payment for birth, increased use of prenatal care, and modest reduction in preterm births," the team reported in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Overall, nearly 75 percent of young pregnant women in the study received "adequate prenatal care" after the Obamacare provision took effect, compared to 73.5 percent before the change.
And the preterm birth rate fell from 9.4 percent of pregnancies prior to the change, to 9.1 percent after, the investigators found.
The Affordable Care Act's dependent coverage provision didn't help budge all pregnancy outcomes, however. Daw's group reported that "there were no significant changes in low birth weight, [neonatal ICU] admission, or cesarean delivery."
Two obstetrician-gynecologists stressed that proper prenatal care is key to keeping a mom-to-be -- and her baby -- healthy.
"Young women often do not have good health care coverage because they are just starting in the workforce or are still completing their education," noted Dr. Jennifer Wu, an ob-gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Inadequate prenatal care is a huge risk factor for bad outcomes in offspring," Wu said. "Prematurity comes with very high costs and also future consequences for the baby."
Dr. Jill Rabin helps direct ambulatory care for the Women's Health Programs at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Rabin noted that "50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are currently unplanned," but proper health care coverage means young women will be seen "more regularly by their gynecologist and will be able to optimize their health in the event of pregnancy."
There's more on proper prenatal care at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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