Delaware and Tennessee to provide free diapers through Medicaid

Free diaper distribution in McKeesport

Free diaper distribution in McKeesport


Low-income parents and caregivers in Delaware and Tennessee are getting a lifeline to help curtail one of the most common medical conditions for babies: diaper rash. Both states have received federal approval to provide free diapers through their Medicaid programs, according to federal and state officials.

Under TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, parents and legal guardians can pick up as many as 100 diapers a month for kids under age 2 at participating pharmacies beginning in August, Tennessee officials said.

“For infants and toddlers, a key benefit to adequate diaper supply is preventing diaper dermatitis, otherwise known as diaper rash, and urinary tract infections,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated last week in an approval letter to Tennessee. 

The federal agency also approved a similar Medicaid program in Delaware that will provide up to 80 diapers and a pack of baby wipes a week to parents for the first 12 weeks after a child is born. CMS said the state can use Medicaid funding to extend the program for an additional five years. 

“Access to sufficient diapers offers health benefits to the parent, as well, as diaper need is associated with maternal depression and stress,” a spokesperson for the Delaware Health and Social Services told the Associated Press in an email.

The cost of diapers

An infant needs as many as a dozen diapers a day, at a cost of $80 to $100 or more a month, according to the National Diaper Bank Network, an advocacy group. The cost of diapers can equate to 8% of someone’s income if they are earning the federal minimum wage, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has noted

Meanwhile, parents who do not have enough diapers are unable drop their kids off at childcare, hindering their ability to work.

The Tennessee request to the federal agency came from an initiative supported by Gov. Bill Lee in 2023 that had lawmakers approving $30 million in TennCare funding for the free diapers.

“We are the first state in the nation to cover the cost of diapers for mothers in the first two years of a child’s life, and we hope this is a model for others,” Lee, a Republican, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Tennessee has built a track record over the years for its willingness to reject federal funding for those struggling or who live in poverty. The state in January announced it would rebuff nearly $9 million in federal funding to prevent and treat HIV, with Lee saying Tennessee did not want to contend with the strings attached to accepting federal funds.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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