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HHS to Help Expand Access and Coverage for High-Quality Maternal Healthcare

CMS is taking steps to improve maternal health and support the delivery of high-quality services for pregnancy and postpartum care.

Dec 13, 2021 – Vice President Kamala Harris has made it her mission to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Through her Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is working to improve maternal health services. 

The goal is to support the delivery of equitable and high-quality care for pregnancy and postpartum care for all. Currently, the maternal health crisis is particularly devastating for Black and Native American women, as well as those living in more rural areas. Native American women are more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Additionally, Black women are three times as likely to die than white women. Those in rural communities are 60% more likely to die before, during, or following birth than those women living in urban areas. 

Based on these statistics, and the lack of equitable and high-quality maternal and postpartum care that many women receive, HHS in conjunction with CMS, is working to ensure that there is nationwide access to high-quality maternal health services. 

CMS Aiding Nationwide Expansion of Maternal Health Services

Through this call to action, CMS is undertaking many initiatives. First, they are proposing a “Birthing-Friendly” designation.  This will be given to hospitals that provide prenatal care, that have agreed to participate in a maternity care quality improvement collaborative, and that have implemented the recommended safety practices. 

Additionally, CMS will encourage states to take advantage of funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), to provide 12 months of postpartum coverage to pregnant individuals that are enrolled in either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This is an important initiative as Medicaid and CHIP cover more than 42% of births in the United States. Half of these are two Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaskan Native individuals.

“No mother should have to fight for her coverage or care during pregnancy or while caring for a newborn. CMS is doing everything we can to support the health of new parents and families, and to advance health equity across the country,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure stated in the press release. “Across the Biden-Harris Administration, we are committed to advancing equitable, high-quality maternity care, and reducing unnecessary postpartum illnesses and deaths that disproportionately harm people of color.”

To read the entire CMS press release, click here

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