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Celebrating Mother’s Day 2024: A Spotlight On Maternal Health

By May 10, 2024No Comments

President Biden and Democrats In Congress Are Driving Down Costs, Expanding Coverage, and Improving Maternal Health Care

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this May, Protect Our Care is highlighting the state of maternal health care in America. The Biden-Harris administration is working to improve access to quality, comprehensive health care by expanding coverage, reducing costs, and improving care in the communities where it is most needed, working to address the maternal mortality crisis by expanding postpartum coverage and launching new public health initiatives. 

Building on the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded eligibility for Medicaid for millions of women across the country and safeguarded key maternal health care services like prenatal screenings and treatments, President Biden and Democrats in Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act is holding big drug companies accountable, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, and making health care plans more affordable through tax credits – saving Americans thousands of dollars on health care.

Meanwhile, Republican attacks on women’s health are coming from all sides. As Republicans in Congress turn their backs on affordable health care and work to roll back some of these essential, cost-lowering programs, President Biden and Vice President Harris are doing everything in their power to drive down health care costs and improve access to quality maternal health care – from the cradle through retirement.

In response, Protect Our Care Director of Policy Programs Andrea Harris issued the following statement, 

“As we honor mothers, we are uplifting the safeguards the Biden-Harris administration has put in place. The ongoing maternal health crisis prevents women from accessing contraception, pre- and postnatal care, and essential reproductive services, as well as limiting women with chronic conditions from paying the bills or caring for their families. While Republicans are working to decimate women’s access to lifesaving health care, the Biden-Harris administration and congressional Democrats are committed to reversing this crisis by using every method at their disposal. The Biden-Harris administration is saving lives and ensuring every mother — no matter who they are or where they live — have the care they need.”

President Biden and Democrats In Congress Are Addressing Maternal Health

Addressing the maternal mortality crisis is a key component of improving maternal health in America. Ensuring all women have health coverage during pregnancy and for a full year after pregnancy is more important than ever. The maternal mortality rate in America has doubled over the last three decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic significantly worsened the crisis. Over 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, and Maternal mortality also disproportionately affects Black women as well as Native American women. President Biden is addressing this crisis by offering states new incentives to give new moms health care for a full year postpartum and pushing to make 12 months of postpartum coverage mandatory for all Medicaid programs.

  • Expanded Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Is Saving Lives Thanks to President Biden and Democrats In Congress. Over half of pregnancy-related deaths – the vast majority of which are preventable – occur between 7 days and 12 months after pregnancy, making postpartum health care coverage an essential tool in addressing maternal mortality. About 40 percent of births are covered by Medicaid nationwide, and states that have expanded Medicaid had lower maternal mortality rates than others for all racial and ethnic groups. Recognizing the urgency of the crisis, the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats in Congress offered states incentives to expand postpartum coverage under Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months following birth. Currently, 47 states have elected to extend Medicaid coverage for a full year postpartum.
  • HHS Launched A New Maternal Mental Health Hotline. In May 2022, the Biden-Harris administration launched a new Maternal Mental Health Hotline for expecting and new moms experiencing mental health challenges. 1 in 5 women in America face mental health challenges before or after giving birth, with the vast majority never receiving care. HHS initially invested $3 million into the confidential, toll-free resource, which offers a range of support to new moms, including interventions and referrals for support groups and other community-based resources.
  • The Biden-Harris Administration Released A Maternal Health Blueprint To Address The Health Crisis. In June 2022, the Biden-Harris administration released a blueprint for addressing the maternal health crisis, outlining five priorities for improving maternal health outcomes across the country. The blueprint offers numerous policy interventions to achieve these goals, namely expanding Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum, investing in rural maternal care, investing in the maternal mental health hotline, increasing the availability of substance use services, expanding protections against unexpected medical bills, requiring better-trained providers, improving maternal health data, investing in the maternal care workforce, expanding access to doulas and midwives, making it easier for pregnant and postpartum patients to enroll in federal housing, food, childcare, and income assistance programs, and strengthening workplace protections for mothers.
  • HHS Awarded More Than $103 Million For A New Maternal Mental Health Task Force and Nearly $90 Million To Expand Maternal Health Resources. In September 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration awarded $103 million in public funding for a new maternal mental health and substance use disorder talk force to improve prevention, screening, diagnosis, intervention, treatment, community practices, communication, and community engagement surrounding mental health equity and trauma. A portion of the funding is also earmarked for a national public education campaign to increase awareness of postpartum depression symptoms and demonstrate the many ways for new mothers to access care. HHS also announced that it would award nearly $90 million in additional funding for Health Resources and Services Administration programs focused on improving access to maternal health services.
  • HHS Launched A New “Birthing-Friendly” Tool To Help Pregnant and Postpartum Patients Find Providers Offering High-Quality Maternity Care. In November 2023, the Biden-Harris administration launched a new initiative to help pregnant and postpartum patients identify hospitals and health systems that implement evidence-based care to improve perinatal care. The new Care Compare tool includes an interactive map labeling providers who offer high-quality maternity care as “birthing-friendly.” HHS previously secured commitments from more than two dozen health plans to offer the tool on their websites, reaching over 150 million people collectively.

Democrats In Congress Are Pushing For Critical Maternal Health Investments To Address Racial Disparities and Save Lives. Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to address the maternal health crisis in America. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, also known as H.R. 3305 or S. 1606, would work to improve maternal health by directing HHS to grow and diversify the maternal health workforce, establishing new programs designed to address maternal health disparities and maternal behavioral health, and providing funding for training, technology, and telehealth initiatives supporting maternal health. The bill would also extend postpartum and breastfeeding eligibility for WIC, address maternal health for incarcerated populations, and provide funding for increased research on maternal health indicators as well as public education efforts focused on improving maternal vaccination rates.

  • President Biden Signed Momnibus Legislation To Strengthen Maternal Health Care For Veterans. In November 2021, President Biden signed the first bill of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act, into law. The law addresses maternity care barriers experienced by veterans by supporting pregnant and postpartum veterans through maternity care coordination and expanded reporting on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.

The Inflation Reduction Act, Championed By President Biden and Democrats In Congress, Helps Reduce Health Care Costs For Millions of Women Across the Country

The Biden-Harris administration has built on the core protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by taking steps to further reduce costs and increase access to affordable health care by expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage and working to implement the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans want to tear it all down and are not only working to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, but they also want to revisit repealing the ACA.

Women are 1.3 times more likely to say they have skipped or postponed getting the health care they needed because of the cost. Thanks to President Biden and Democrats in Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act is saving Americans thousands of dollars on health care by holding big pharmaceutical companies accountable and bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, making health care plans more affordable with premium tax credit subsidies, and capping the price of insulin at $35 per month for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Bringing down the cost of health care helps keep food on the table and a roof over the heads of millions of people. Here are just some of the cost-lowering benefits provided by the Inflation Reduction Act:

  • 4 million Americans on Medicare who use insulin are now charged no more than $35 per month for an insulin prescription. Over 730,000 women on Medicare who use insulin would have saved money if the Inflation Reduction Act had been in effect in 2020.
  • In 2023, 14.3 million Americans saved an average of $527 on monthly health insurance premiums.
  • 50.5 million Medicare beneficiaries can receive the shingles vaccination and other recommended vaccinations free of cost. 
  • 87.2 million Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries also have access to recommended vaccinations free of cost.
  • Seniors on Medicare will be protected from drug company price hikes thanks to increased inflation rebates.
  • Nearly 9 million people take the first ten drugs that have been selected for Medicare price negotiation. These drugs account for 20 percent of the annual Medicare Part D spending and two of the drugs – rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis drug Enbrel and psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis drug Stelara – are disproportionately taken by women enrolled in Medicare Part D. Negotiated prices will take effect in 2026.
  • 400,000 low-income seniors will receive more help affording prescription drugs through the Medicare Part D Extra Help program.
  • Seniors with the highest brand-name drug costs will see relief because their coinsurance is phased out, effectively capping their out-of-pocket costs at $3,250 for the year.
  • In 2025, out-of-pocket costs in Medicare Part D will be capped at $2,000, saving nearly 19 million Americans an average of $400 each year.

The Affordable Care Act Continues To Safeguard Maternal Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Requires Insurers To Cover Free, Guaranteed Maternal Health Care Services. The ACA requires free access to a variety of preventive services related to pregnancy, including preeclampsia screenings, breastfeeding equipment like pumps and bottles, folic acid, and screenings for perinatal diabetes, in order, to support healthy pregnancies and fight the maternal mortality crisis. The ACA also requires that insurers cover medications used to prevent life-threatening complications in pregnancy like preeclampsia as well as mental health interventions for pregnancy-related depression.

The ACA Has Expanded Eligibility for Medicaid, Which Covers Over 30 Million Women Nationwide. At least 31 million adult women rely on Medicaid for coverage – an estimated 60 percent of the adults enrolled in Medicaid. Women with Medicaid coverage are less likely than women with private insurance to report delaying or forgoing care due to cost. In 2020, Medicaid covered 16 percent of nonelderly women in the United States, the vast majority of whom are working, going to school, at home caring for young children or relatives, or experiencing an illness or disability that does not permit them to work.

  • Medicaid Improves Access To Care For Women. Women with Medicaid are far more likely to receive care than uninsured women. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women with Medicaid coverage are less likely than women with private insurance to report delaying or forgoing care due to cost. Women with Medicaid coverage receive preventive care such as cancer screenings and well-women services at roughly the same rates as women with private coverage and at a higher rate than women without insurance.
  • Medicaid Provides A Major Source of Coverage for Women of Color and Women with Disabilities. Due to systemic inequalities, women of color are disproportionately likely to be covered by Medicaid. Women of color consistently experience higher rates of maternal mortality than white women, largely due to the intersection of health with race, gender, poverty, geography, and other social factors. Thanks to the ACA, access to preventive care through Medicaid expansion has reduced racial disparities in cancer care and resulted in earlier diagnosis and treatment for Black patients. According to the Center for American Progress, Black women were more likely to receive care because of the ACA. Medicaid also covers more than 44 percent of nonelderly women with mental and physical disabilities.
  • Medicaid Is The Largest Payer Of Reproductive Health Care Coverage. Medicaid covers nearly 17 million women of reproductive age, giving them access to reproductive health care services such as birth control, cancer screenings, and maternity care without cost-sharing. Medicaid’s reproductive health coverage is especially important in states that have further restricted access to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
  • More Than Four In 10 Births Are Covered By Medicaid. More than 4 in 10 births were financed by Medicaid in 2022. Rates varied across the nation, with 61 percent of births being financed by Medicaid in Louisiana, and 22 percent in Utah. Medicaid covers 65 percent of all births to Black mothers and 59 percent of all births to Latina mothers.
  • Medicaid Helps Pay For Long-Term Care, Relied On By Elderly Women. Medicaid pays for roughly half of the nation’s long-term services. Roughly two-thirds of all insurance claims for long-term care are for women seeking care. Over 70 percent of nursing home residents are women, and almost two-thirds of home care recipients are women. Elderly women are also more vulnerable to poverty.

Thanks to the ACA, Women Can No Longer Be Charged More Than Men. Because of the ACA, insurers can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage, and insurers are required to cover important health benefits like maternity care. Before the ACA, only 12 percent of individual market plans offered maternity care. The ACA established maternity coverage as one of the ten essential health benefits required on all new individual and small group policies.