December 04, 2019 01:52 pm News Staff – The Academy recently repeated its urgent call for Congress to pass legislation addressing the nation's maternal mortality crisis.
In three November letters to lawmakers that were signed by Board Chair John Cullen., M.D., of Valdez, Alaska, the AAFP expressed support for separate House bills that approach the issue in complementary ways.
The Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services Act (H.R. 4996) would allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to women for a year after they give birth, increasing patients' access to care for critical and chronic postpartum complications.
"Research indicates that Medicaid expansion has had a positive impact on maternal health and for reducing racial health disparities," the AAFP told the bill's sponsors, Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Michael Burgess, M.D., R-Texas, in a Nov. 22 letter backing the legislation.
In a Nov. 20 letter to Reps. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the AAFP commended their Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services Act (H.R. 4243) -- which, the Academy said in August correspondence supporting the Senate version of that legislation, "addresses several important strategies necessary to improve maternal health for women in rural parts of the country."
Specifically, the bill supports a demonstration program to incentivize physician training in rural areas while investing in improved data collection and the use of telehealth to improve health care quality and access.
The need is dire.
The Academy's letter supporting H.R. 4243 cited CDC data indicating that 700 U.S. women a year die as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.
"In rural areas, women face health disparities and are almost twice as likely as urban women to experience negative maternal health outcomes," the letter added. "According to a 2018 March of Dimes report, approximately 5 million women live in counties with no hospital offering obstetric care."
In another Nov. 20 letter, the Academy also applauded the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 4995). Among other elements, the bill would direct HHS to promote best practices to reduce and prevent implicit bias.
Such bias is among the reasons the United States has one of the developed world's highest rates of maternal mortality, with women of color at especially high risk, the AAFP reminded the bill's sponsors, Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Larry Bucshon, M.D,. R-Ind.
"Family physicians are well positioned to address this issue due to their training, experience in managing chronic health conditions and commitment to serving diverse patient populations," the Academy wrote.
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