The number of Medicaid births at Heartland continued to rise in 2012.

Of the 1,525 births the hospital reported through November, 60.74 percent were insured through Medicaid.

In 2011, the percentage was slightly lower, 60.35 percent. The year prior, 2010, reported 59.2 percent Medicaid births.

“I’m not surprised,” said Ben Ernst, chief executive officer of Northwest Health Services. “I think that’s a combination of more people who are qualified because of the recession, lack of jobs, lack of coverage. They have a job, but they’re still at the poverty level and their kids are uninsured.”

Statewide, the number of children on Medicaid is much lower. According to the most recently available data, Missouri’s Medicaid program covers 39.9 percent of the state’s children. Almost five percent of children qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled.

Health care professionals anticipate the numbers of Medicaid births rising in the years to come. Whether Missouri opts to expand its Medicaid program, more of the kids who are eligible for Medicaid may be enrolled in 2014. In order for parents to participate in the state’s subsidized health insurance exchanges, their children must be covered by insurance.

Northwest Health Services, which handles many of the area’s Medicaid patients, has started to feel the effects of the rising number of children on Medicaid.

“Right now we’re seeing the increase in Medicaid in dental,” Mr. Ernst said. “Because we’ve had some shifts in our dentists, we’ve been taking on more of the kids who are on Medicaid, versus the adults who are uninsured just because of the demand.”

The Federally Qualified Health Center also has been working to expand access to primary care providers.

Northwest Health Services has family practitioners, but Heartland Health has pediatricians, so many of the primary care services for the growing number of children on Medicaid are shared among the area organizations, Mr. Ernst said.

He also said Northwest Health Services has been working with Heartland to bring pediatrics to one of Northwest Health Services’ clinics.

The births at Heartland have kept with national trends in terms of numbers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 2011’s birth rate was a record low, 3,953,593, which was about one percent less than the number of births in 2010. Heartland reported 1,715 births in 2011, which was about 2.4 percent less than its number of births in 2010.

Jennifer Gordon can be reached

at Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPGordon.

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