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FACT SHEET: Vice President Kamala Harris Announces Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

December 07, 2021

As part of the Call to Action, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases new report estimating that 720,000 more people would gain Medicaid postpartum coverage if states act; the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes establishment of "Birthing-Friendly" hospital designation and issues guidance to states on how to provide Medicaid coverage for a full year postpartum

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have long championed policies to improve maternal health and equity, and addressing the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis is a key priority of their Administration. America's maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black women and Native American women, regardless of their income or education levels. On behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration, Vice President Harris is issuing a nationwide Call to Action to both the public and private sectors to help improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States.

Today marks the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action. In addition to substantial investments proposed in the Build Back Better Act, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new commitments to support safe pregnancies and childbirth, and reduce complications and mortality in the year following birth.

The Administration will:

  • Build Back Better: The Build Back Better Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, includes an historic $3 billion investment in maternal health.
  • Encourage states to expand postpartum coverage: CMS is releasing new guidance to help states provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage through their Medicaid programs, up from 60 days. Currently, states are only required to provide coverage for 60 days postpartum, despite research showing that many deaths and complications occur more than 60 days following delivery. This easier pathway for states was established by the American Rescue Plan and will become available in April 2022. States, including Virginia, New Jersey, and Illinois, have already extended postpartum coverage for families in their states and CMS is encouraging all states to take up the new option.
  • Report on the impact of postpartum coverage: HHS's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) is releasing a new report showing the dramatic impact of state extensions of Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months. If every state adopted an extension — as required in the Build Back Better Act —then the number of Americans getting coverage for a full year postpartum would roughly double, extending coverage for an estimated 720,000 people in a given year.
  • Create a new designation of the quality of maternal health services for our nation's hospitals: CMS is planning to propose the establishment of a "Birthing-Friendly" hospital designation, which would be the first-ever hospital quality designation by HHS specifically focused on maternity care. This designation is intended to be awarded to those hospitals that participate in a collaborative program aimed at improving maternal outcomes and implement patient safety practices. CMS would add the designation to their "Care Compare" website to allow consumers to choose hospitals that have implemented best practices.

The Build Back Better Act's Investment in Maternal Health

Once passed, the Build Back Better Act's maternal health provisions will:

  • Invest over $3 billion in new maternal health funding, with transformative new investments in growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce, improving data collection and maternal health risk monitoring, addressing the social factors that contribute to poor maternal health outcomes, addressing substance use disorders that impact maternal health, promoting increased maternal health research, improving postpartum coverage, and better coordinating care.
  • Require all states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum, eliminating potentially deadly gaps in health insurance at a critical time for individuals. Currently, states are only required to provide coverage for 60 days postpartum, despite research showing that many deaths and complications occur more than 60 days following delivery.
  • Spark innovation by allowing states to establish maternal health homes to better coordinate health care for individuals before, during, and following birth.

Additional Background on Biden-Harris Efforts to Combat the Maternal Health Crisis

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any wealthy nation in the world. Every year, people in the United States die of pregnancy-related causes at more than double the rate among nations with similar levels of income. Maternal mortality statistics in the United States have actually worsened over the past 20 years, even as rates among peer nations have generally improved. In addition, each year, tens of thousands of mothers experience severe morbidity—unintended consequences of pregnancy that result in life-altering health challenges, such as severe heart issues, hemorrhages, seizures, and blood infections.

This maternal health crisis is particularly devastating for Black and Native American women, and women in rural communities. Black women are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as white women, and Native American women are more than twice as likely, regardless of their income or education. Pregnant women who live in rural communities are about 60 percent more likely to die before, during, or following birth than women in urban communities.

In April, the President issued the first-ever presidential proclamation for Black Maternal Health Week, which emphasized the importance of addressing this crisis. The Administration simultaneously released a fact sheet outlining significant requests for new funding related to maternal health, actions to expand Medicaid coverage for pregnancy and postpartum care, and grant funding for rural maternal care.

As a Senator, Vice President Harris introduced the Maternal CARE Act and the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which would provide significant additional resources to address the crisis. This maternal health work by Vice President Harris and other Congressional leaders is now a key component of the Build Back Better Act, which will expand access to maternal care and make unprecedented new investments to drive down mortality and morbidity. President Biden and Vice President Harris call on the Senate to swiftly pass Build Back Better, and make these reforms a reality for America's families.

Kamala Harris, FACT SHEET: Vice President Kamala Harris Announces Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353677

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