SC Expanding Program to Help New Moms on Medicaid

Social worker Elizabeth Dugan visits with Kanada Edwards and her daughter Omani Tuesday in West Columbia.
Social worker Elizabeth Dugan visits with Kanada Edwards and her daughter Omani Tuesday in West Columbia.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina is expanding a program to help mothers-to-be who are on Medicaid to be healthier and have healthier babies. Gov. Nikki Haley announced at the Statehouse Tuesday the state is expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership program, adding another 3,200 first-time mothers and their babies to the 1,200 families already in the program.

The program sends registered nurses who have specialized training in maternal and child health to the homes of first-time mothers who are on Medicaid. The visits start during pregnancy and continue until the child is two. About two-thirds of the new cases will be in rural areas.

“These new moms want to be the best moms they can be, but they need guidance and they need help, and that’s where these nurses are going to come in,” Gov. Haley said. “These aren’t just case workers; these are actual nurses that are going to go into homes. These are actual nurses that are going to partner with the mom to say, ‘You can do this’ and give them all the practices on how they can do it.”

Kanada Edwards is a first-time mom who took part in a similar program, Palmetto Healthy Start, which is limited to the Midlands. A “resource mother” visited her at home starting during pregnancy and has continued. Edwards’ daughter Omani is now two.

She says of expanding the state program, “Oh, it’ll help out a whole lot because there’s a lot of things especially new moms do not know.”

She says her “resource mother” taught her about breastfeeding, the importance of taking Omani to six-month check-ups, and helped her get through post-partum depression.

The program expansion is also a “Pay for Success” project. State Department of Health and Human Services director Christian Soura says, “The state is only going to pay a very small per-visit fee upfront for NFP’s provider at the time these services are delivered. Most of the state’s commitment will instead be set aside until we can measure the cumulative impact of these visits over the course of these next few years.”

The payments will be dependent on things like the program reducing the number of pre-term births by about 15 percent and reducing child injuries by about 25 percent, he says.

Gov. Haley says even though expanding the program will cost some money up front, it will save taxpayers money in the long-run. “This in turn is going to reduce Medicaid costs. We will not see as many pre-term births. We will not see as many admissions to the NICU. We won’t see as many injuries to children when we go and we give the guidance from the beginning,” she says.

And most of the money is coming from philanthropic groups. The state is putting in $13 million through Medicaid, while $17 million is coming from groups including BlueCross BlueShield, Boeing, The Duke Endowment, Greenville First Steps, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

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