Today-during Black Maternal Health Week-the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing initial actions it has taken to address the maternal health crisis in the United States. America’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black women and Native American women- regardless of their income or education levels. Recent data show that Black women are roughly two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than non-Hispanic white women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that two out of three of these deaths are preventable.
Quality, equitable health care is a right, not a privilege. The actions announced today are initial steps in the critical work this Administration will do to address our maternal mortality crisis, close disparities in maternal care and outcomes for all birthing people, and address the systemic racism that has allowed these inequities to exist.
President Biden and Vice President Harris have both championed policies to improve Black maternal health. As a Senator, Vice President Harris championed legislation to close gaps in access to quality maternal care and educate providers about implicit bias. As Vice President, President Biden fought for the Affordable Care Act and to strengthen Medicaid, both of which ensure access to critical services to support maternal health. Within just a few years of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, Black uninsured rates dramatically declined – a key factor in ensuring better maternal health outcomes – and the persistent health insurance coverage gap between Black and white Americans fell by more than 40 percent.
The Biden-Harris Administration continues that commitment to reducing unacceptably high maternal mortality and morbidity rates and to tackling health disparities that are rooted in systemic racism. That’s why today, the President issued the first-ever presidential proclamation calling on all Americans to recognize the importance of addressing the crisis of Black maternal mortality and morbidity in this country. And, in his first 100 days, President Biden issued executive orders to implement a comprehensive approach to advancing racial equity, and to establish the White House Gender Policy Council to take a whole-of-government approach to gender equity. Both of these interagency processes will work to end disparities that affect women and girls of color, including the maternal health crisis.
The Administration has taken the following actions to strengthen health equity and address racial disparities in maternal health through:
Increased investment in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. The President’s discretionary funding request includes significant funding to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates, improve health equity, and end race-based disparities nationwide, including:
- Investing $200 million to: implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers; create State pregnancy medical home programs; bolster Maternal Mortality Review Committees; expand the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies (RMOMS) program; and help cities place early childhood development experts in pediatrician offices with a high percentage of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program patients;
- Increasing funding for the HHS Office for Civil Rights by 24 percent, to $47.9 million, to ensure protection of civil rights in healthcare;
- Providing $340 million, an increase of 18.7 percent, to the Title X Family Planning program, which will improve access to vital reproductive and preventive health services and advance gender and health equity;
- Prioritizing investments in programs that protect rural health care access and expand the pipeline of rural healthcare providers; and
- Supporting women and young children by providing $6 billion for the critical Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), to help vulnerable families put healthy food on the table and address racial disparities in maternal and child health outcomes.
Approval of the First Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver to Broadly Extend Postpartum Coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, approved a Medicaid Section 1115 waiver in Illinois that will allow the state to extend post-partum coverage to Medicaid-eligible women beyond 60 days and up to 12 months. This approval will help ensure access to vital health care services, promote better health outcomes, and reduce the rate of maternal morbidity and mortality. Illinois is the first state to extend postpartum coverage to all pregnant women under Medicaid. The Administration invites all states to provide full Medicaid benefits during pregnancy and the extended postpartum period.
$12 Million in Additional Funds for Maternal Obstetrics Care in Rural Communities. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity that will make $12 million available in new awards for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s RMOMS Program. RMOMS is designed to develop models and implement strategies that improve access to and continuity of maternal obstetrics care in rural communities, and will help improve maternal health outcomes for underserved rural mothers, including Black rural mothers. For the first time, applicants are required to focus on populations that have historically suffered from poorer health outcomes, health disparities, and other inequities.