The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation in the world and has a rate more than double that of peer countries. Recently, the Biden Administration has taken many steps to tackle this, as a part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. According to CNN, the blueprint has five major goals: (1) to increase health care access and coverage; (2) to address bias in health care so women are heard and respected when they raise concerns; (3) to improve data collection; (4) to expand and diversify the medical workforce that cares for pregnant people; and (5) to help low income women who lack economic and social supports before, during and after pregnancy.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently unveiled its Maternity Care Action Plan to aid in the implementation of the Biden-Harris Administration’s blueprint. CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure stated that “CMS will use every available lever to support people during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, and advance health equity across the country. Our action plan is built on promising approaches… to advance equitable, high-quality maternity care and reduce unnecessary maternal illnesses and deaths.”
One aspect of CMS’ plans is the extension of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage for 12 months after pregnancy in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Kansas. These three states join California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C in having extended coverage, meaning more than 280,000 people across the country can get the critical postpartum care they need. According to the HHS, if all states adopted this option, as many as 720,000 people across the U.S. annually could be guaranteed Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months after pregnancy.
CMS is also outlining a proposal for a “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation, a key feature of the maternal health strategy. The “Birthing-Friendly” designation would be publicly displayed on a CMS website to help consumers find hospitals that have demonstrated a commitment to maternity care quality.
To further the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to addressing the maternal health crisis, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health invested $8.5 million in initiatives designed to reduce pregnancy-related deaths and complications that disproportionately impact minority populations and those living in rural areas.
Last week, the HHS also announced a proposed rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in certain health programs and activities. Strengthening this rule is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing gender and health equity and civil rights. Planned Parenthood CEO and President Alexis McGill Johnson stated that “With Roe overturned, we have called on leaders at all levels to act to support health care access that is free of judgment and discrimination. This is particularly essential as attacks on people seeking abortions–as well as trans people–have significantly escalated in recent months.”