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Bipartisan bill to reduce Maternal Deaths introduced in Congress

Congresswoman Robin Kelly has introduced H.R. 4387, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act (MHQIA), aimed at reducing the alarming rate of maternal deaths in America and saving mothers’ lives.

In the United States, there is an estimated 700 pregnancy-related deaths per year and 60 percent of these are considered preventable. The crisis is most severe for Black mothers in America, who are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of their white counterparts.

The bipartisan bill would implement evidence-based best practices and policies within the medical community to improve maternal health outcomes. The bill would also support health professional training programs focused on biases that may affect the quality of maternal care for racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, the bill would provide funding to establish rural obstetric networks to improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal morbidity in rural areas.

Rep. Kelly introduced the bipartisan legislation along with Reps. Alma Adams of North Carolina and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, and Republican colleagues Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Michael Burgess of Texas and Bob Latta of Ohio.

“The maternal health crisis has disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and people of color for far too long,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “We need to develop and share best practices to improve maternal health outcomes, but we also need to address some of the underlying biases among medical professionals that might interfere with delivering the best maternal care. While this crisis will not be eradicated overnight, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act, along with the more comprehensive MOMMA’s Act, present tangible steps we can take to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.”

“The maternal health crisis in the United States is unacceptable, and our mothers and families are paying the price,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams, co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “I’m proud to support Congresswoman Kelly’s Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act, because we must break down all of the barriers to quality maternal care, including the systemic racism and inherent biases that pervade health care. Studies show at least sixty percent of maternal deaths in this country are preventable. We must do everything in our power to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity because our mamas can’t wait.”

“Not only does this legislation take an important step towards providing American women and their families access to the proper care they need, but it also includes common-sense incentives for physicians to serve these areas,” said Congressman Burgess, M.D. Being an OB-GYN, I can attest that this bill would benefit both the doctor and the patient – it’s a win, win for everyone.”

“Maternal health is an everyday issue. Black women and women of color are dying at an alarming rate due to implicit bias, lack of training, and lack of staff available for around the clock care,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “Maternal mortality rates have become a national crisis and demand immediate federal intervention. Women should not fear for their lives at any point in their birthing process and post-birth care, and increasing the diversity in our health care workforce is one way to mitigate this issue.”

“Indiana has an unacceptably high maternal mortality rate state-wide, possessing the third worst rate in the country,” said Congressman Bucshon, M.D. “It is vital that we improve maternal mortality rates, especially in rural America, by providing the necessary resources to stop preventable maternal mortality. I applaud this bipartisan legislation which will benefit patients and communities that are currently struggling by providing them with the support and training they so desperately need, and by helping ensure that women in rural areas can have access to maternal health providers,” said Dr. Bucshon.

“According to the Ohio Department of Health, in Ohio from 2008 to 2017, 59% of pregnancy-related deaths were found to be preventable,” said Congressman Latta. “In rural areas, like many parts of my district, it can be difficult for women to gain access to obstetric services they need before and after giving birth. This legislation utilizes updated technology and training to better understand the root causes of maternity deaths and provides better care to expecting mothers. It is crucial that Congress take swift action to stop further pregnancy-related deaths.”

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives has remained steadfast in its commitment to move the needle on eliminating preventable maternal deaths by once again introducing the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act,” said ACOG President J. Martin Tucker, MD, FACOG. “This foundational bill will implement evidence-based policies that will improve maternal health outcomes, support quality improvement programs, and take steps to eliminate racial inequities. We are grateful to Representatives Kelly and Bucshon for their leadership on this important bill. We enthusiastically urge Congress to act swiftly to enact this strong bipartisan bill that will meaningfully address our nation’s maternal mortality crisis and save moms’ lives.”

Stacey D. Stewart, president and CEO, March of Dimes, said, “We thank lead sponsor Representative Kelly for her continued leadership and original cosponsors Representatives Bucshon, Adams, Burgess, Hayes, and Latta for introducing the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act. This legislation would take important steps through evidence-based programs and policies that are critical to driving real change in addressing maternal mortality. We welcome efforts to implement evidence-based practices and systems change through the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health program and state-based perinatal quality collaboratives. Additionally, training programs to address racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes, and improving care for women in underserved areas are vital. The House worked on a bipartisan basis to advance this legislation last Congress, but it stalled at the end of session. We now call on the House and Senate to enact this legislation along with other bipartisan, consensus maternal health legislation this year.”

The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act would:

Authorize a grant program to improve maternal health outcomes by developing evidence-based best practices, improving maternal mortality review committee data, and evaluating new models of care.

  • Authorize a grant program to address implicit and explicit bias training for health care providers.
  • Create a study to develop recommendations for teaching within health professional training programs to reduce and prevent biases that could impact maternal care.
  • Expand the ability of the CDC to award grants for perinatal quality collaboratives to develop and disseminate best practices.
  • Authorize a grant program for developing integrated health care services for pregnant and postpartum women and infants, with grants and reporting of study outcomes.

The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act incorporates parts of Rep. Kelly’s MOMMA’s Act, comprehensive legislation that consists of five main components that also includes expanding access to Medicaid postpartum coverage, and improving maternal health data collection.

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