Congress Advances Maternal Health Legislation
December 20, 2018
In response to increasing alarm over rising maternal mortality rates and heightened attention to maternal health outcomes, Congress passed two important pieces of legislation designed to prevent maternal deaths and increase access to maternity care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. maternal mortality rate was 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births during 1999, increasing to 18 deaths per 100,000 live births during 2014.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cites the following statistics:
- More women die in the U.S. from pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country
- The U.S. is the only industrialized nation with a rising maternal mortality rate—between 2000 and 2014, the maternal mortality rate increased 26 percent
- Racial disparities in maternal mortality are staggering—black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than non-Hispanic white women
In light of these trends, Congress has engaged in exploring maternal health issues throughout the fall.
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing during September to look at ways to improve data as a means to ensure better maternal health outcomes. During October, the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee sought feedback from health care providers to consider why maternal mortality and morbidity rates are rising and what avenues should be pursued to address maternal health trends.
Two pieces of maternal health legislation emerged as bi-partisan, bi-cameral priorities, and are now poised for enactment into law:
- H.R. 315, Improving Access to Maternity Care Act, requires the Health Resources and Services Administration to identify geographic areas experiencing a shortage of health professionals practicing in maternity care, and to create incentives for OB/GYNs to address the maternal health care needs of those communities.
- H.R. 1318, Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, authorizes $60 million during the next five years to fund maternal health review committees in each state. These committees will be directed to investigate the causes of deaths from pregnancy and childbirth, and to develop prevention plans. The committees will also serve to collect standardized maternal mortality data.
In a December 10 letter to Congress, ninety organizations, including the American Hospital Association (AHA), urged enactment of the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, stating that the legislation: “will accelerate progress toward ensuring that every state has a high-functioning process for identifying the causes of maternal mortality and translating recommendations made by maternal mortality review committees to meaningful action. This legislation will also advance efforts among states to standardize the collection and analysis of data so that we can develop a national understanding of why mothers are dying in the United States and what it will take to reverse this tragic trend.”
Examples of what hospitals nationwide are doing to improve maternal care, including collaborative work to engage in maternal safety and quality improvement initiatives, is highlighted in this op-ed by the AHA’s chief medical officer.
The Pennsylvania hospital community supported the creation of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee formed by Pennsylvania’s Maternal Mortality Review, Act 24 of 2018, enacted this May. This committee, with hospital member representation, will review information on maternal deaths and disseminate findings to advance best practices.
Pennsylvania hospitals have been adopting best practices from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In addition, obstetricians and pediatricians are meeting with stakeholders to form a Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative to:
- Work to improve maternal outcomes
- Reduce infant mortality
Please contact Michael J. Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration, for more information.