OKLAHOMA CITY – There is hopefully good news coming soon for many Oklahoma expectant mothers. The Helping Every Life and Parent, or HELP Task force was convened by the governor to look at ways to support expectant mothers and their babies.
The task force unanimously recommended the Oklahoma Health Care Authority expand coverage for SoonerCare members receiving pregnancy and postpartum services. Policies such as these have been recommended by attendees at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) Fall Forum, our annual policy conference where we shape the annual Children’s Legislative Agenda.
The task force made two recommendations. The first would increase Oklahoma’s income threshold for full-scope pregnancy-related benefits from 138% to 205% of the federal poverty level, an adjustment from $31,780 to $47,210 for a family of three.
Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would allow states to provide new mothers with up to 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage. The recommended services include postpartum care, prescription drugs, genetic testing, vision and hearing services to treat disease, physical, occupational, and speech therapies, preventive primary care, and more robust dental benefits during and after their pregnancy.
OICA is grateful to see these recommendations and support their implementation. This is important because the most recent numbers show there were an average of 5,000 abortions performed each year in Oklahoma over the last two decades.
With the changes by the United States Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade and federal abortion guidelines, state law took over. Oklahoma has the strongest abortion ban laws of any state on the books. That means there will be more babies born in Oklahoma and they and their mothers will need support.
Many abortions performed are based upon economic conditions. The Guttmacher Institute reports that from 1987 to 2014, the rate of abortions was increasing concentrated to poor women, with three-fourths of abortion patients falling into a low-income category—49% living at less than the federal poverty level, and 26% living at 100–199% of the poverty level.
Above this, Human Life International, a staunchly pro-life organization, reported on a survey conducted in six states from 1996 to 2020, 96.50% of all abortions are performed for social or economic reasons. These babies will be born into socially or financially difficult situations.
Statistics from Brookings, an economic think tank, show that the average middle-income family with two children would likely spend $310,605 to raise a child born in 2015 up to the age of 17. The average price of hospital births in Oklahoma is $12,662 (without major complications), according to a 2020 report by CBS News. Additionally, the cost of childcare can easily take up a sizable part of parents’ budgets each year, ranging from $5,436 to $24,243 annually.
It is inevitable that costs to state dollars regarding care and treatment of these children will substantially grow. For Oklahoma to be a truly “pro-life” state, we must prepare and allocate funds to help take care of these children who will become our youngest residents.
Both policy changes will require CMS approval should state authorities officially pursue them. If you know of someone who currently falls into these economic limits, please recommend they visit mysoonercare.org to learn more about SoonerCare eligibility and coverage.
If you would like to attend the OICA Fall Forum on October 11-13 and help us and other child advocates find solutions and advocate for policy changes, go to https://www.oica.org to sign up.
About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action, and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”