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'Momnibus' billís aim: close American maternal health gap
Legislation would aid black mothers
Published Thursday, March 12, 2020 11:00 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

A bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) would address gaps in maternal health care, where black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related events than their white counterparts.

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U.S. Rep. Alma Adams is leading support for bills to address gaps in American maternal health care.

Adams, a Charlotte Democrat, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif) and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus will introduce a legislative package that builds on current maternal health legislation by filling the gulf faced by African American mothers, who die at a rate four times higher than their white counterparts.

The nine individual bills, called Black Maternal Health Momnibus by their congressional backers, call for policy changes like 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage, investments in rural maternal health, promotion of a diverse perinatal workforce, and implicit bias training.

“For decades, the US maternal mortality and morbidity rates have gotten worse for all mothers, but especially for black women whose health outcomes are further compounded by systemic and structural racism,” said Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is a historic piece of legislation that not only fills existing gaps in maternal healthcare, but also works to address pervasive maternal health disparities through solutions that are culturally-congruent and proven effective.

The Momnibus provides a new roadmap to ensure our healthcare systems, providers, and society truly make black maternal and infant health a priority.”

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The legislation would:

• Make investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition.

• Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes for black women.

• Launch a study of unique maternal health risks facing women veterans and invest in maternity coordination with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

• Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mother  receives maternity care and support from people she can trust.

• Improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis  and inform solutions to address it.

• Invest in maternal mental health care and chemical substance use disorder treatments.

• Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated women.

• Invest in digital tools like telehealth in underserved areas.

• Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and continuity of health insurance coverage from pregnancy through labor and delivery and up to a year after a baby is born.

Adams reintroduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies, or Maternal CARE Act last year. Harris introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“Black women across the country are dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications at astounding rates- and the disparity transcends income and education levels,” Harris said in a statement. “It is critical that the federal government work with states, local health providers, and mothers and their families to address the crisis and save lives. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus will address many barriers to care so we can improve maternal health outcomes and help ensure women — especially black women — have access to comprehensive, culturally competent care.”

Previous legislation introduced by Adams  would establish a grant program based on a North Carolina model in which the pregnancy-related mortality rate for black women dropped from 51.1 per 100,000 live births to 24.3.

The U.S. is one of 13 countries where the rate of maternal mortality is now worse than it was 25 years ago. Black women are twice as likely to suffer from life-threatening pregnancy complications as their white counterparts.


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