Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Is the government texting your baby?

Written By: Jason Shafrin - May• 17•12

In honor of National Women’s Health Week, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) hosted a briefing on the text4baby program today.

What is Text4Baby?

Text4Baby is a free national health texting service that promote senrollment in both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and provide pregnant women and new mothers free text messages on important health care issues.

One question is who would sign up for Text4Baby?  There are abundant resources available on the internet giving tips for pre-natal care and childrearing.  Why does the government need to create a text service offering parenting advice?  This initiative could be useful for individuals without internet access or limited internet access (e.g., only at work and/or at a library).  However, one would think that private companies could also provide a similar service.  Since new mothers often a desirable demographic for advertisers, one would think that health tips sponsored by companies would readily be financially sustainable.  Thus, it seems that the government would have a limited role here.

However, Text4baby is the largest mobile health initiative in the country and in just over two years has enrolled over 345,000 individuals in the service.  Why have so many people enrolled?

One reason is that individuals may trust the government more than other sources.  More relevant may be that individuals can sign up for CHIP and Medicaid through the Text4baby system.  Any program that can simplify the enrollment process for Medicaid and CHIP likely is in high demand.

Thus, is the demand for Text4baby due to the medical advice it offers or due to the fact that it facilitates enrollment in public health insurance programs?  I would bet the latter.

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One Comment

  1. Jason says:

    Had you bothered to actually look at the web site for Text4Baby, you might have realized that this initiative is, in fact, sponsored by private companies (notably Johnson & Johnson) working in partnership with health coalitions and government agencies.

    It may well be that enrollment is partially driven by access to information about public insurance programs, but a) insurance coverage leads to better maternal outcomes, and b) private companies have an interest in uninsured people getting connected to coverage as well.

    While I’m not an expert on this particular program, it would seem to be an example of private-public partnerships working precisely as they should.

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