To test how prenatal participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children () impacts health care utilization and immunizations within the first year of an infant's life.
We utilize comprehensive South Carolina Medicaid claims data from 2004 to 2013 linked with birth certificates data from 2004 to 2012. These data contain information on participation and all health care utilization within the first year of an infant's life.
We employ a maternal fixed‐effects empirical design to control for unobserved factors that influence participation and health care utilization.
We estimate that participation increases infant health care utilization within the first year of life by 0.20 well‐child visits (95 percent 0.16–0.23), by 0.22 vaccinations (95 percent 0.17–0.27), and by increasing the probability of receiving care in an emergency room by 2.9 percentage points (95 percent 2.0–3.8). Additionally, our results show that participation decreases the average number of days an infant spends in the hospital within his or her first year of life by 0.41 days (95 percent 0.22–0.60).
These findings suggest that may increase health care costs in some dimensions while reducing it in others, and more work is needed to fully evaluate the impact of the program on future expenditures.