Tennessee’s Medicaid program to be the first to provide free diapers for infants and 1-year-olds

May 23, 2024, 10:03 AM

Families in Tennessee will soon be able to receive free diapers through a Medicaid program.

Families in Tennessee will soon be able to receive free diapers through a Medicaid program. Mandatory Credit: Karl Tapales/Moment RF/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

(CNN) — Tennessee’s Medicaid program will in a few months provide free diapers for covered children under the age of 2 – the first state Medicaid program to do so, the program said Tuesday.

On Friday, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved an amendment to Tennessee’s Medicaid waiver, TennCare III, according to a news release from TennCare. The amendment will allow TennCare to cover the cost of up to 100 diapers a month for children under the age of 2 who are enrolled in TennCare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (known in the state as CoverKids), starting in August.

“These new initiatives will ease financial burdens for families and ensure the well-being of TennCare’s youngest members,” the release said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently approved a similar Medicaid program in Delaware that will provide up to 80 diapers per week and up to one pack of baby wipes to parents for the first 12 weeks after giving birth.

Other state Medicaid programs may cover diapers for older children when it is deemed medically necessary for incontinence issues. TennCare already covers diapers and other incontinence products for people with “illnesses or conditions that impact their ability to control their bladder or bowels,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Under TennCare’s new program for infants and 1-year-olds, parents and legal guardians can collect diapers directly through participating pharmacies in TennCare’s network. That will help in “preventing avoidable health care use and improving overall infant health,” according to the federal agency.

“A key benefit to adequate diaper supply is preventing diaper dermatitis, otherwise known as diaper rash, and urinary tract infections,” the federal agency said.

A study from the National Diaper Bank Network found that 47% of families reported diaper need in 2023, a jump from the approximately 33% who reported it in 2010.

Infants require up to 12 diapers per day, at a cost of $80 to $100 or more per month per baby, according to the network. Diapers can cost 8% of a person’s total income if they are making federal minimum wage, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Diaper Bank Network, an advocacy group, says more states can ease the burden on new parents by removing sales taxes on diapers. Those taxes are charged on diapers in 26 states, the network says. Some states recently added themselves to the list of those that have no sales taxes on diapers, providing some relief for families as recent spikes in inflation have made diapers even more expensive.

Another way to address diaper need is through investing in diaper banks, which 10 states do and four others did previously, the network says. A few states, namely California, New York and Washington, provide assistance to families to help make diapers more affordable, according to the network.

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Tennessee’s Medicaid program to be the first to provide free diapers for infants and 1-year-olds