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Ahead of Mother’s Day, Booker, Pressley, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Improve Maternal Health Outcomes

MOMMIES Act would expand coverage for pregnant women covered by Medicaid Black women are nearly four times as likely to die from childbirth complications as white women, U.S. has highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths of any country in developed world

May 8, 2019
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of Mother's Day, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and their colleagues introduced a far-reaching bill to improve maternal health outcomes, reverse the trend of rising maternal mortality rates, and close disparities that put mothers and kids of color at risk. The Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act would expand coverage for pregnant women covered by Medicaid -- which covers nearly half of all births in the U.S. -- by dramatically extending coverage for new moms from two months to a full year after childbirth; ensuring that all pregnant and postpartum women have full Medicaid coverage, rather than coverage that can be limited to pregnancy-related services; and increasing access to primary care providers and women's health providers. The bill is one of the most far-reaching proposals ever introduced in Congress to address maternal health. Booker reintroduced the bill in the Senate yesterday and Pressley will introduce the bill in the House of Representatives later today. In the Senate, the bill was cosponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). "We live in a nation that spends more than any other country on health care, yet we still have the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths of any country in the developed world," Senator Booker said. "And black women are nearly four times as likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than white women -- in New Jersey they are five times as likely. New Jersey also has the unfortunate distinction of having the fifth-highest rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. We simply cannot continue to accept this alarming status quo -- we must do something about it and this bill is an important first step. By expanding Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, we can begin to stem the rising tide of maternal mortality and close the egregious racial gaps that exist in maternal and infant health outcomes." "The lived experiences of Black women demonstrate how racism and trauma directly impacts the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities for generations," Congresswoman Pressley said. "Maternal justice is about ensuring that every mom-to-be is listened to and treated with dignity and respect during and after childbirth. The MOMMIES Act would do just that by promoting a community-based, holistic approach to maternal care that recognizes current disparities in healthcare and critical environmental factors impacting communities." "Today Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ayanna Pressley introduced the MOMMIES Act, legislation that would expand access to prenatal and postpartum health benefits, and that champions the integration of care providers such as midwives, community-based doulas, and holistic birth workers -- services that are proven to positively impact maternal health outcomes for Black women," Black Mamas Matter Alliance co-directors Elizabeth Dawes Gay and Angela Doyinsola Aina, said. "In the United States we currently face the highest risk of illness, complications and even death due to lack of quality maternal care and more egregiously, institutional bias and racism rampant in our hospitals and healthcare systems. Black Mamas Matter Alliance supports the MOMMIES Act due to its potential to advance maternal health, rights and justice for Black Mamas and ensure their ability to thrive before, during and after pregnancy. We applaud Senator Booker and Representative Pressley for taking bold action on behalf of all Black mothers. We urge Congress to support and pass this important bill." "Every Mother Counts commends Sen. Booker and Rep. Pressley for their leadership re-introducing the MOMMIES Act to tackle some of the biggest problems confronting our maternity care system," Christy Turlington Burns, Founder and CEO of Every Mother Counts, said. "The Act takes a comprehensive approach, going beyond putting a band-aid on a broken system, by enhancing available support services and filling gaps in the system that lead to poor health outcomes. Because Medicaid covers nearly half of all births in the U.S., this bill has the potential to shift maternity care standards across the board." Between 2000 and 2014, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. increased by 26 percent, while it decreased in nearly every other country. And stark disparities in maternal deaths exist, as black women are nearly four times as likely to die from childbirth complications as white women. Additionally, for every woman who dies due to a pregnancy-related complication, dozens more suffer from unexpected outcomes from pregnancy that result in both short- and long-term consequences to a woman's health. Specifically, the MOMMIES Act would: Extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women to a full year after giving birth, rather than the current limit of 60 days that many women face. Ensure that all pregnant and postpartum women have full Medicaid coverage, rather than coverage that can be limited to pregnancy-related services. This is particularly critical for reducing disparities, as benefits for pregnant women covered by Medicaid vary depending on their eligibility group and what state they're located in. Establish a Maternity Care Home demonstration project in up to 15 states to study the effectiveness of this innovative model of maternity care. Maternity Care Homes show great promise in improving maternal health outcomes, as they are based on a model of care that is patient-centered, coordinated, and comprehensive. Maternity Care Homes have shown early successes in reducing health care costs, increasing the number of prenatal visits, and reducing the number of low birthweight infants. Data from the pilot programs can be used to implement the model on a wider scale. Extend the Affordable Care Act's primary care bump to ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries have access to primary care providers, including women's health providers. Facilitate increased access to doula care. Doulas are support personnel who provide pregnant women with emotional, physical, and informational support. Doula care has been shown to improve maternal and infant health outcomes, particularly among women of color, but currently, only a handful of states have authorized Medicaid coverage for doulas. The MOMMIES Act would facilitate increased access to doula care by requiring the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to publish a report on coverage of doula care under Medicaid, including recommendations for legislative and administrative actions to increase access to such care. Study telemedicine and its potential to improve Medicaid beneficiaries' access to maternity care. Telemedicine programs show promise in increasing access to maternity care, particularly in rural and other underserved areas. To learn about telemedicine's potential to increase access to maternity care, the MOMMIES Act would require a Government Accountability Office report on states that are currently providing this coverage and recommendations for increasing access to telemedicine for pregnant women. The MOMMIES Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Ancient Song Doula Services Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs Black Mamas Matter Alliance Black Women's Health Imperative Center for Reproductive Rights Children's Dental Health Project Every Mother Counts In Our Own Voice March of Dimes MomsRising National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum National Health Law Program National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health National Partnership for Women & Families National Women's Law Center 1000 Days