Senate panel to vote next month on maternal mortality bill

Senate panel to vote next month on maternal mortality bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate Health Committee will vote on a bill next month addressing increasing maternal death rates in the U.S., ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTime for action to improve government data analysis Overnight Health Care: Opioid bill, action on drug prices top fall agenda | ObamaCare defenders prep for court case | Koch group ad hits McCaskill on health care Measure making it easier to prosecute police for deadly force on Washington ballot MORE (Wash.) said Tuesday. 

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThis week: Democrats pledge ‘sparks’ in Kavanaugh hearing Congress faces September scramble on spending California passes bill to ban controversial drift net fishing MORE (R-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (D-N.D.), would support state-level efforts to form review committees that specifically track and investigate pregnancy-related deaths, and then look for ways to prevent future deaths from occurring. 

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"It is unacceptable that in the United States of America in the 21st Century, maternal mortality rates are increasing, and increasing at higher rates for women of color," Murray said during a Health Committee hearing Tuesday. 

"I'm glad to know we have members on both sides of the aisle who understand how important this is for families across the country, and that we've agreed to keep working on a bill that's championed by Sens. Heitkamp and Capito for markup next month." 

Lobbyists had pushed to have the bill included in the opioid package that the committee is marking up Tuesday, but that didn't materialize. 

The legislation, and its counterpart in the House, was introduced nearly a year ago, but has fallen by the wayside as Congress focused on other pressing health care issues, like the opioid crisis and ObamaCare stabilization. 

The delay has frustrated advocates, who note that the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among industrialized countries. 

These deaths still aren’t widely tracked across the U.S.; the legislation would standardize current state efforts to do so and help states that don’t have committees create them through grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

It's not clear when the House Energy and Commerce Committee will take up House's version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerWashington’s Dem governor invites Trump to come campaign for GOP candidates Dems see wider path to House after tight Ohio race Record numbers of women nominated for governor, Congress MORE (R-Wash.). A committee spokesperson said last week concerns were still being worked through with members.