Booker, Ayanna Pressley introduce bill taking aim at black maternal death rates

Greg Nash

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is running for president, have introduced legislation that would take action to reduce maternal mortality rates, citing particularly high rates for black women.

The bill, the Healthy MOMMIES Act, would expand Medicaid coverage to ensure comprehensive prenatal, labor and postpartum care, extending the program’s pregnancy pathway from 60 days to a full year after giving birth and ensuring new mothers have access to services beyond pregnancy-related health care, such as oral health services.

{mosads}The legislation would also increase Medicaid minimum reimbursement rates for maternal and obstetric services for people in underserved areas, improving Medicaid patients’ access to primary care providers and establish a demonstration project studying maternity care homes “using a health and racial equity approach.”

It would also direct Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s Payment and Access Commission to report data on coverage of doula care under state Medicaid programs and develop strategies to improve access to doula care both pre- and postpartum, and require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue guidance for states on increasing doula care under Medicaid and require the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress how state Medicaid programs are using telemedicine to increase access to maternity care.

“The lived experiences of Black women demonstrate how racism and trauma directly impact the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities for generations,” Pressley said in a statement. “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.”

Black women are four times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy during and after childbirth and twice as likely to lose their child to premature deaths, Pressley noted, while Medicaid pregnancy coverage currently ends 60 days after birth despite the fact that nearly 20 percent of maternal deaths occur between six weeks and a year after childbirth.

The bill is co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), the founders of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. In the Senate, it is co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the latter of whom has also raised the issue of black maternal deaths during her 2020 presidential campaign.

Tags Alma Adams Ayanna Pressley Ben Cardin Cory Booker Kirsten Gillibrand Lauren Underwood Tammy Baldwin

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