In a study recently published in Family & Community Health, University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers found that inconsistent Medicaid coverage may worsen health disparities transmitted across generations.
The study, “Medicaid Instability and Mental Health of Teen Parent Families,” was co-authored by Department of Family Science assistant professor, Dr. Amy Lewin and graduate student Ms. Julie Fife Donney as well as Dr. Stephanie Mitchell, an independent researcher.
The researchers used data from interviews with mothers who participated in patient-centered medical home intervention for teen parent families. The interviews were conducted when their child was two months old, one year old and then again two years later. The study found that mothers who experienced inconsistent Medicaid coverage had significantly higher parenting stress and depressive symptoms than mothers who received consistent Medicaid coverage. The mental health differences between the mothers only developed after experiencing gaps in coverage, suggesting that inconsistent Medicaid coverage can cause adverse mental health effects.
The study also found evidence that there is an intergenerational relationship between parenting stress and child behavioral problems, though the researchers acknowledge that mothers who are experiencing stress may also be more likely to report child behavioral problems.
The researchers suggest that health care providers, programs and schools working with low-income teen mothers be aware of the mental health risks associated with inconsistent Medicaid coverage and work with parents to help them obtain coverage.
Dr. Lewin, Ms. Fife Donney and Dr. Mitchell also suggest that both federal and state policies should increase access to Medicaid.