Ahead of Mother’s Day, Pressley, Booker, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Promote Community-Based, Holistic Maternal Healthcare

May 8, 2019
Press Release

The Healthy MOMMIES Act would Expand and Enhance Coverage for Pregnant People Enrolled in Medicaid, Including Access to Community-Based Doula Care

 

WASHINGTON — Ahead of Mother’s Day, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Founding Member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and their colleagues in the House and Senate introduced sweeping legislation that would work to reverse the rising maternal mortality rates by expanding and enhancing coverage for pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid, which covers nearly half of all births in the U.S.

The Healthy MOMMIES Act is one of the most far-reaching proposals ever introduced in Congress to address maternal health. The Healthy MOMMIES Act would dramatically extend coverage from 2-months to a full year after childbirth, ensuring that all pregnant and postpartum people have full Medicaid coverage, rather than coverage that can be limited to pregnancy-related services, and increase access to culturally-competent community-based doula services during and after pregnancy. In the House, the bill is co-sponsored by Congresswomen Alma Adams (D-NC) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL), founders and co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“The lived experiences of Black women demonstrate how racism and trauma directly impact the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities for generations,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Maternal justice is about ensuring that every mom-to-be is listened to and treated with dignity and respect during and after childbirth.  The Healthy 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.”

“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,” said Senator Booker. “More disturbingly, 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 ignominious 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 moms, we can begin to stem the rising tide of increasing maternal mortality and begin to close the egregious racial disparities that exist in maternal and infant health outcomes.”

 “As a Black mother and grandmother, this crisis is deeply personal to me. I co-founded the Black Maternal Health Caucus because Black women are dying of preventable pregnancy – related complications at an alarming rate,” said Congresswoman Adams. “I’m proud to cosponsor the Healthy MOMMIES Act to expand Medicaid coverage to ensure all vulnerable women have access to culturally- competent, community-based healthcare services.”

“As a nurse, I understand how critical access to comprehensive health care services is for maintaining and achieving health,” said Congresswoman Underwood. “As a co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, I’m proud to support the Healthy MOMMIES Act, which expands access to essential health care services in order to improve health outcomes for mothers and eliminate racial disparities in morbidity and mortality for moms and babies.”

 

The Healthy MOMMIES Act builds on the leadership of Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s (D-IL) MOMMA (Mothers and Offspring Mortality & Morbidity Awareness) Act introduced last Congress.

Between 2000 and 2014 the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. increased by 26%, while it decreased in every other developed 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 women’s health.

Specifically, the Healthy MOMMIES Act would:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Establish, implement, and evaluate a Maternity Care Home demonstration project to study the effectiveness of this innovative model of maternal care in 15 states. Maternity Care Home models provide care coordination and support services with a focus on identifying and treating high-risk pregnancies. Such models have shown early successes in reducing health care costs, increasing the number of prenatal visits, and reducing the number of low birthweight infants.
  4. 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.
  5. Increase access to doulas, including community-based doulas. In the U.S., fewer than a handful of states report having Medicaid coverage for doula care for women.
  6. Study telemedicine and its effectiveness and potential to improve Medicaid beneficiaries' access to maternity care.

 

The Healthy MOMMIES Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Center for Reproductive Rights, Ancient Song Doula Services, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Every Mother Counts, In Our Own Voice, March of Dimes, Moms Rising, National Asian Pacific American People’s Forum, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National People’s Law Center, Children’s Dental Health Project.

 

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