Sometimes political decisions can seem abstract or distant. I want to share my perspective as a labor and delivery nurse.
My job is to help moms safely deliver babies and to promote a healthy start to a new beginning. With one out of every two births in Alaska insured through Medicaid, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Medicaid vetoes have very clear consequences: They would strip women of vital access to prenatal care and raise maternal and infant mortality rates. If we as Alaskans have any respect for human life, the legislature must override these vetoes.
Preventative medicine is a good investment. For half of expectant mothers in Alaska, that investment is only available because of Medicaid. During prenatal visits simple, cheap and effective strategies to control blood pressure, manage blood sugar and promote healthy eating can prevent massive complications like maternal eclamptic seizures, birth trauma, and fetal neurological damage. I have found that women who come in to deliver their babies are hugely motivated to enact positive changes in their lives to give their newborn the best shot a good life. Health care providers can support women during this critical time through prenatal appointments and wellness visits after their child is born to cultivate and encourage these healthy lifestyle changes. Without Medicaid, many women would miss out on these opportunities.
Medicaid provides health insurance for more than 200,000 Alaskans, and is the largest health insurance program in our state. Since Congress gave states the option of expanding Medicaid in 2014, states have taken two very different paths. Some have expanded Medicaid, made the health care system more efficient, and expanded health insurance coverage. Alaska is among these — we expanded coverage to 50,000 additional Alaskans at minimal cost to our state budget. Other states, mostly in the South, chose not to expand Medicaid. The results are dire: Infant mortality in many non-Medicaid expansion states like Mississippi are worse than in many developing nations.
The health and vitality of Alaskans are critical to the productivity and innovation essential for our state’s future. The $77 million Dunleavy wants to cut from Medicaid primarily provides care to moms, kids and hard working families. Medicaid saves money and lives through programs that provide preventative dental care, addiction treatment and insurance coverage to children from low income families. Medicaid decreases ER visits and shortens or prevents hospital admissions.
Dunleavy is trying to break Alaska with an extreme ideological agenda. I hope he fails; the future children of Alaska deserve better. I implore the legislature to override the budget vetoes and save the lives of moms and newborns.
• Trina PaStarr is a labor and delivery nurse in Anchorage. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.