March 25, 2021
House Appropriations hearing on the maternal health crisis
On March 23, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing entitled, "Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis," featuring testimony from representatives across the maternal health landscape including the New Jersey Department of Health, Bastyr University Midwifery program, the National Partnership for Women and Families, and the March of Dimes. Both Chairman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) noted the importance of addressing the maternal health crisis through appropriations, with Rep. DeLauro calling the U.S. maternal mortality rate a "national disgrace" and Rep. Cole saying it is a problem that "ought to be an embarrassment to our country." Throughout the hearing, committee members expressed their bipartisan commitment to finding solutions to address the maternal health crisis, with members focusing their questioning on issues including access to quality and affordable maternal health care, disparities faced by minorities and people in rural areas, maternal mental health and substance use, the maternal health workforce, and the various programs and other solutions that are needed to drive better outcomes.
The witnesses expressed their support for several pieces of legislation aimed at reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, including the Momnibus Act, which the panel said would invest in building out the workforce and expanding cross-sector collaboration. They expressed the need to support midwives in completing their training, noting that the Midwives for MOMS Act would fund a diverse workforce, help students complete their training and compensate preceptors, also noting the need for more grants to expand midwifery programs. They also expressed support for the Babies Act, which would fund Medicaid demonstrations to build birth centers — which the panel noted are important providers of quality care in maternity care deserts, which includes 1,000 U.S. counties — and stressed the need to expand Medicaid funding for 365 days post-partum. They agreed with the committees' focus on maternal mental health, and that it has been exacerbated by the pandemic, calling for a focus on the "forth trimester" and ensuring post-partum mental health screenings and other check-ups as well as training of providers and leveraging doulas to serve as a support system. Along these lines, they also noted the need for paid leave, so women are able to attend post-natal appointments for themselves and their babies. The panel also expressed the need for a variety of other initiatives including perinatal quality collaboratives, standardized data collection and surveillance, evidence-based guideline development and dissemination, training for providers on racial bias, and more.
Additional information is available in the attached Tax Alert.
Appropriations maternal health