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Distance traveled for Medicaid-covered abortion care in California.

  • Author(s): Johns, Nicole E
  • Foster, Diana Greene
  • Upadhyay, Ushma D
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

Access to abortion care in the United States is limited by the availability of abortion providers and their geographic distribution. We aimed to assess how far women travel for Medicaid-funded abortion in California and identify disparities in access to abortion care.

Methods

We obtained data on all abortions reimbursed by the fee-for-service California state Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) in 2011 and 2012 and examined distance traveled to obtain abortion care by several demographic and abortion-related factors. Mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression models were constructed to examine factors associated with traveling 50 miles or more. County-level t-tests and linear regressions were conducted to examine the effects of a Medi-Cal abortion provider in a county on overall and urban/rural differences in utilization.

Results

11.9% (95% CI: 11.5-12.2%) of women traveled 50 miles or more. Women obtaining second trimester or later abortions (21.7%), women obtaining abortions at hospitals (19.9%), and rural women (51.0%) were most likely to travel 50 miles or more. Across the state, 28 counties, home to 10% of eligible women, did not have a facility routinely providing Medi-Cal-covered abortions.

Conclusions

Efforts are needed to expand the number of abortion providers that accept Medi-Cal. This could be accomplished by increasing Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, increasing the types of providers who can provide abortions, and expanding the use of telemedicine. If national trends in declining unintended pregnancy and abortion rates continue, careful attention should be paid to ensure that reduced demand does not lead to greater disparities in geographic and financial access to abortion care by ensuring that providers accepting Medicaid payment are available and widely distributed.

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