HHS Announces Efforts to Help Expand Nationwide Access and Coverage for High-Quality Maternal Health Services

As part of Vice President Kamala Harris’s Call to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is taking steps to improve maternal health and support the delivery of equitable, high-quality care for pregnancy and postpartum care. CMS intends to propose a “Birthing-Friendly” designation to drive improvements in perinatal health outcomes and maternal health equity. The designation would initially identify hospitals that provide perinatal care, are participating in a maternity care quality improvement collaborative, and have implemented recommended patient safety practices.

In addition, CMS is encouraging states to take advantage of the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) option to provide 12 months postpartum coverage to pregnant individuals who are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This follows the release of a report by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) showing the dramatic impact if states extended Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months. If every state adopted an extension, as proposed in the Build Back Better Act, then the number of Americans getting coverage for a full year postpartum would roughly double, extending coverage for an estimated 720,000 in a given year.

Medicaid and CHIP cover over 42% of births in the nation, nearly half of which are to Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaskan Native individuals. Extending the postpartum coverage period can improve health outcomes during the postpartum period and mitigate health disparities for individuals served by Medicaid and CHIP.

“As a father to three daughters and husband to a high-risk obstetrician, I know nothing is more important as having healthy childbirth,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “I’m proud that the Biden-Harris Administration has made maternal health and equity a priority. We will continue to take actions to support new parents and ensure safe pregnancies, no matter a family’s background.”

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