Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Smith Press Senate Leaders for Maternal Health Policies in Next COVID-19 Package
COVID-19 is worsening pre-existing maternal health racial disparities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Tina Smith (D-MN) are urging Senate leaders to include an array of key maternal health policies in the next COVID-19 legislative package as the pandemic threatens to stress our maternal care system and worsen pre-existing racial disparities.
“The maternal mortality rate in the United States exceeds that of almost all of its peer countries, and in fact, the U.S. is one of only a few countries in the world that experienced an increase in maternal mortality between 2000 and 2014,” the Senators wrote in a letter sent today to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “The same communities that are at greatest risk for maternal death and illness are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. It is clear that this pandemic is placing further strain on our nation’s maternal care system and on pregnant people.”
The Senators asked leadership to include the following policy solutions in the next COVID-19 relief package:
- Extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from the current 60 day minimum requirement to one full year (Medicaid covers 43 percent of births each year, and the abrupt 60-day cut-off for postpartum women covered by Medicaid is harmful for new mothers, particularly as one-third of pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after delivery).
- Expand Medicaid coverage beyond simply “pregnancy-related services” to include full-scope care (the current restriction of care to “pregnancy-related services” only may prohibit individuals from receiving care for other health conditions and comorbidities that impact maternal health, including those related to COVID-19).
- Make Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs), which regularly review maternal health data, universal for all states, with consistent data collecting and reporting norms, and ensure they are representative of the U.S. population.
- Boost resources and support for states to implement maternity care telehealth services nationwide, particularly those covered under Medicaid.
- Improve access to doula and other perinatal support services, such as lactation counselors and childbirth educators (doula support has been linked to improved perinatal outcomes, particularly for people of color).
- Boost funding for midwifery education programs in order to grow, strengthen, and diversify the midwifery workforce, especially for midwives of color and those working in health professional shortage areas (midwifery care is associated with fewer unnecessary interventions, increased patient satisfaction, and lower health care costs).
- Provide dedicated funding to states and hospitals to help reduce maternal deaths, and prevent and respond to complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth.
- Improve access to freestanding birth center services for people with low-risk pregnancies (freestanding birth centers are evidence-based, safe alternatives to in-hospital birth, which can help relieve pressure on the physician workforce, minimize COVID-19 transmission, and direct health system resources more effectively as the country continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic).
This letter was also signed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Deborah Stabenow (D-MI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
The full text of the letter can be found here.