On Wednesday, April 13, 2022, during Black Maternal Health Week, Vice President Kamala Harris will convene a meeting with Cabinet Secretaries and agency leaders to discuss the Administration’s whole-of-government approach to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity. The Vice President will convene leaders across the federal government – including agencies that may not have historically taken a leading role addressing the maternal health crisis.
In December 2021, Vice President Harris convened the first-ever federal Maternal Health Day of Action, where she announced a historic Call to Action to improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States. This resulted in the Administration’s announcement of private sector and public sector investments. Ahead of the Cabinet Meeting, the Administration is following up with additional actions to address maternal health, and to combat the systemic inequities that lead to worse maternal outcomes for Black, Native American, and rural women.
- 11 Additional States and D.C. Ask to Extend Medicaid and CHIP Coverage to a Full Year After Pregnancy under American Rescue Plan: The American Rescue Plan is working to make Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months after pregnancy a reality for people across the country. The Vice President called on states to expand their postpartum coverage during her Call to Action in December.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Louisiana, Virginia, New Jersey, and Illinois’ extension of Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months after pregnancy on or before April 1, 2022. CMS is also working with another eleven states and the District of Columbia to extend postpartum coverage for a full year after pregnancy, including: California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In addition, a number of other states have announced that they are working to extend Medicaid and CHIP coverage to 12 months after pregnancy, and CMS looks forward to working with those states.
- In order to receive federal funds and to ensure consistency with federal standards, including those set by the American Rescue Plan, states must go through a formal process run by CMS. Medicaid covers more than 40 percent of births in the United States, and extending this coverage will bring the peace of mind of health coverage to parents and children during the vulnerable post-partum period.
- Based on HHS estimates, approximately 720,000 people would benefit if all states were to adopt the American Rescue Plan’s new option to extend post-partum Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a full 12 months.
- “Birthing-Friendly” Hospital Designation: CMS is proposing the “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation to drive improvements in maternal health outcomes and maternal health equity. The “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation would assist consumers in choosing hospitals that have demonstrated a commitment to maternal health. The Administration announced this new designation during the White House Maternal Health Day of Action Summit.
- Initially, the designation would be awarded to hospitals based on attestation that the hospital has participated in maternity care quality improvement collaboratives and implemented best practices that advance health care quality, safety, and equity for pregnant and post-partum patients.
- Data will be submitted by hospitals for the first time in May 2022, and CMS will post data for October to December 2021 in fall 2022. Criteria for the designation may be expanded in the future.
- Engaging the Health Care Industry to Improve Health Outcomes: In Summer 2022, CMS will convene health care industry stakeholders – including health care facilities, insurance companies, state officials and providers – to focus on industry commitments to improve health outcomes experienced by pregnant and postpartum people. CMS and experts will share best practices and commitments and request that health care industry leaders make commitments to advance maternal health.
- Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Programs: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced approximately $16 million to strengthen Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Programs through seven awards supporting eight states.
- These awards will advance data and technology innovations to support positive maternal and child health outcomes in states and communities, and focus on addressing health disparities.
- State Maternal Health Innovation and Implementation (State MHI) Program: State MHI supports state-level development and implementation of proven strategies to improve maternal health and address maternal health disparities. The new funding, $9 million, will continue to build state capacity to deliver high-quality maternity care services and provide training for maternal care clinicians. It also adds a component to enhance the quality of state-level maternal health data through better collection, reporting and analysis. The program will fund up to nine cooperative agreements, and each will receive up to $1 million over five years.
- Maternal Health Best Practices: HHS, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is also, on telehealth.hhs.gov, posting a new Maternal Health Best Practice Guide for providers to incorporate telehealth for prenatal and postpartum care, and monitoring within high-risk pregnancy. Through remote patient monitoring, screening and treatment for postpartum depression, and lactation consulting, maternal telehealth can help reduce barriers to access to critical care for mothers before, during and after a pregnancy.
Previous Actions Announced since the Vice President’s Call to Action in December
- Investing in Doulas: HHS announced the availability of $4.5 million for hiring, training, certifying, and compensating community-based doulas in areas with high rates of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes, doubling the number of Healthy Start doula programs nationwide.
- Title X: HHS restored access to Title X family planning services nationwide to fill service gaps caused by more than a quarter of Title X providers withdrawing from the program over the past two and a half years in response to the previous administration’s Title X rule. HHS awarded $256.6 million in grant funding to support 76 grantees to deliver equitable, affordable, client-centered, and high-quality family planning services.
- FY23 Budget Request: The President’s budget includes $470 million to: reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates; expand maternal health initiatives in rural communities; implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers; create pregnancy medical home demonstration projects; and address the highest rates of perinatal health disparities, including by supporting the perinatal health workforce.
- As Vice President, Kamala Harris has worked closely with President Biden and other leaders in the Administration to improve outcomes for Black women and their families.
- In December 2021, the Vice President led a Maternal Health Day of Action Summit, noting the urgent need to address this crisis.
- At the Summit, the Vice President announced guidance to help states provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage through their Medicaid programs, up from 60 days; a new HHS report showing the impact of state extensions of Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months; and CMS’s plan to propose the establishment of a “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation. She also announced that more than 20 companies and nonprofits have pledged to invest over $150 million and take other critical actions to address the maternal health crisis.
- In April 2021, the Vice President hosted a roundtable on Black Maternal Health with Domestic Policy Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice. She was joined by women who shared their experiences with complications from pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum as well as their work in advocacy and research, highlighting the disparities that Black women face in maternal health.
- The Omnibus spending bill passed in March and signed by the President includes both the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act and an expansion of the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) program.
- These foundational bills authorize and improve programs to address the maternal mortality crisis in this country and build on current funding at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.
- Last fall, the Administration released the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which includes its vision to strengthen health care and women’ health, including through addressing the maternal mortality crisis in the United States and abroad.
- As a Senator, Vice President Harris was a champion on the issue of maternal health. She brought racial disparities in maternal mortality, particularly for Black women, to the forefront legislatively, increasing awareness among her colleagues and leading to a broader discussion of racial disparities across other health issues.
- She convened roundtables, lifted up local organizations that are focused on the issue, and ensured that initiatives on maternal health included references to racial disparities and relevant solutions.
- She introduced several bills in the Senate specifically targeted to addressing racial disparities in maternal mortality, including the Maternal CARE Act and the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act.