A New Government Action Plan for Maternity Care

Recently, President Biden and his administration released a document focused on improving the care of pregnant women and birthing people. The document is called the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis.” It was released on June 24th. This document reflects an ongoing focus this administration has on maternal health and reflects the public health community’s interest in this issue despite ongoing concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blueprint focuses on the administration’s commitment to reduce the rates of maternal deaths and complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, reduce health disparities or persistent differences in maternal health outcomes among certain demographic groups, and improve the overall experience of pregnancy, birth and postpartum for people across the country. The Blueprint indicates that the US has the worse maternal mortality rate of any high-income country. It provides suggestions on legislation that Congress can pass that would likely improve maternal health. The Blueprint provides specific actions for federal government agencies to take that should improve maternal health. Across these goals is a focus on advancing equity for people in certain demographic groups with greater maternal mortality rates. There are five overriding goals for the plan discussed here.

Access to High Quality Maternal Health Services

The first goal is: “Increase Access to and Coverage of Comprehensive High-Quality Maternal Health Services, Including Behavioral Health Services.” This goal address the gaps in insurance coverage that some women – mainly lower income – face during and after pregnancy. The strategy for addressing this problem is that the federal government will encourage states to extend their Medicaid coverage after pregnancy from 60 days to 12 months. The strategy also calls for the federal government to be a model employer with regards to maternal health coverage. There is also a unique investment in maternal behavioral health. The federal government is launching a 24 hours / 7 days a week national support hotline for pregnant individuals and new mothers who have mental health challenges. There is no mention of the after pregnancy standards for private insurance plans.

Patient-Centered Strategies

A second goal is: “Ensure those giving birth are heard and are decision-makers in accountable systems of care.” This goal is focused on spreading best practice approaches for improving maternal health care. One of the strategies is to create a “birthing-friendly” hospitals that demonstrate they are engage in efforts to adopt best practices that can improve maternal health care and make it more equitable for all types of people giving birth.

Improving Data Collection and Research

The third goal is: “Advance data collection, standardization, transparency, research, and analysis.” This goal focuses on the fragmented or non-uniform approach to collecting data on maternal health. The varied strategies among states create challenges for researchers and government officials seeking to understand the problems well and address them with targeted solutions. The federal government is also planning to work with federal health insurance plans on collecting more data on the race and ethnicity of insured employees to better understand any difference in care based on race and ethnicity.

Diverse Workforce

The fourth goal is: “Expand and diversify the perinatal workforce.” This goal exists for many health care challenges. The general thinking is that a more diverse workforce reflects the diversity of pregnant individuals and will likely lead to better care over time. Varying cultural experiences also help the workforce provide higher quality care overall to diverse groups of patients. The government also points out the improving reimbursement for health professionals can increase the number of clinicians that are available to people giving birth – especially those who are low income.

Greater Economic and Social Supports

Finally, the fifth goal is: “Strengthen economic and social supports for people before, during, and after pregnancy.” Here the government is seeking to increase awareness of the various programs that are meant to help women with their financial needs – employment, housing, etc. In addition, the government seeks to make the process of applying for programs more efficient for people giving birth.

In addition to this plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, also unveiled a plan called “Maternity Care Action Plan.” This plan is holistic or broad in nature – similar to the Blueprint. The agencies plan calls on the private sector and industry stakeholders to offer proposed commitments to improve health outcomes at http://cms.gov/maternalhealthcommitments. The agency also offers ways that it will meet each of the administration’s stated maternal health goals.

Perry Payne
Dr. Perry Payne is a public health practitioner and scholar with expertise in quality of care, health equity, prescription drug policy, and health care ethics. He has over ten years of experience as a freelance health care/medical writer and editor. His full-time work experience includes working as a professor and researcher in universities, serving as a federal government official, and a brief stint working for healthcare technology companies.

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