Using Deliberative and Qualitative Methods to Recommend Revisions to the Medicaid Sterilization Waiting Period



      Sterilization is used by one-quarter of women in the United States for contraception and is a preferred birth control method among women with Medicaid. A history of coercive sterilization practices in the United States led to federal regulation of consent for Medicaid sterilization (including a mandated waiting period); this regulation can be a barrier to sterilization in Medicaid-insured women. This study aimed to develop a revised model of Medicaid sterilization policy grounded in the experiences of women impacted by current regulations.


      This prospective study used in-depth interviews with 32 Medicaid-insured women who had obtained or tried to obtain sterilization to elicit recommendations regarding the Medicaid waiting period. Deliberative methods (a planning cell including 20 key community stakeholders) were used to evaluate women's recommendations and propose a revised policy for sterilization under Medicaid.


      In-depth interview data demonstrated that women were often not made aware of the 30-day waiting period during informed consent before sterilization. Once informed about the policy, women described the Medicaid waiting period as “unfair,” because it did not apply to all women. After deliberating women's recommendations to change the policy, key stakeholders came to a consensus around replacing the current waiting period policy with an improved consent process that would acknowledge the problematic history of coercive sterilization. Participants could not endorse removing the waiting period altogether without evidence that the health system had shifted away from coercive sterilization practices.


      Using deliberative methods and the recommendations of women with Medicaid insurance, community stakeholders recommended developing a revised Medicaid sterilization consent policy that acknowledged the historical context of this procedure.
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      Priya Batra, MD, MS, FACOG, is a health services researcher and practicing women's health clinician. Her work highlights how the implementation of health policies and health care delivery practices affect U.S. disparities in reproductive health access and maternal health outcomes.


      Katheryn Rodriguez, BA, is a research coordinator at the University of California, Riverside. Her current projects aim to integrate anthropological insights into clinical practice and health policy through interdisciplinary collaboration. Her work centers on social inequalities and health disparities.


      Ann M. Cheney, PhD, is faculty in the Department of Social Medicine, Population, and Public Health at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine. Her work focuses on structural inequalities in health among immigrants, women, and rural populations.