Press Release

September 25, 2018
Cardin, Senators Introduce Bill to Enhance Maternal Health Coverage Under Medicaid, Improve Health Outcomes for New Moms
Bill seeks to reverse rising maternal mortality rates, close disparities that put women of color at risk

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) today introduced a bill to reduce the United States’ rising maternal mortality rates, improve maternal and infant health outcomes, and close the disparities that continue to put mothers and children of color at risk.

The bill, the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act, would enhance coverage for pregnant women covered by Medicaid – which covers nearly half of all births in the United States – by extending coverage for many women to a full year after childbirth, increasing access to primary care providers and women’s health providers, establishing a maternity care home demonstration project, and taking action to expand access to doula care.

Each year, an estimated 700 to 900 women nationwide now die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. The maternal mortality rate in Maryland is 25.6 percent compared to the national average of 13.3 percent. African American women account for over 40 percent of these deaths associated with childbirth.

“With the rate of maternal mortality in the United States significantly increasing over the last three decades, Congress must act so that mothers and their newborns receive the care they need. Whether a mother lives or dies from complications during childbirth should not be determined by her zip code or income level,” said Senator Cardin. “This bill will make crucial reforms to expand access to essential health care for low-income pregnant women, ensuring that we can join every other developed country in reducing the rate of women dying as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.”

“As the rest of the world works to improve maternal health outcomes, skyrocketing maternal mortality rates here in the United States are precipitating a public health crisis– one that puts mothers of color and low-income mothers especially at risk,” said Senator Booker. “Maternal mortality and morbidity, especially among communities of color, is an urgent public health issue that demands a comprehensive, proactive approach. By enhancing Medicaid’s maternal health coverage, this bill will reduce disparities in access to care and improve health outcomes for all mothers.”

“It’s completely unacceptable that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Too many women across the country have died during and after childbirth because of preventable and treatable conditions, and this rate is especially high for black women, who are up to four times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. We are failing our mothers and babies. I’m proud to be a cosponsor of the MOMMIES Act, which will take important steps to improve maternal care for some of our most vulnerable mothers who rely on Medicaid. Congress must immediately address this problem, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”

“Wisconsin is seeing troubling increases in maternal and infant mortality, so we need to do everything we can to make sure women and our families have access to quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Baldwin. “We know that healthier pregnancies lead to healthier babies. That’s why I’m proud to work on this important legislation by enhancing Medicaid and CHIP support so mothers and pregnant women can get the care they need at a price they can afford.”

“Inadequate or inaccessible health care is a major contributor to a maternal mortality rate in the United States that is stunningly, unacceptably high.  By strengthening Medicaid and CHIP—vital lifelines for millions of pregnant women, mothers, and children—the MOMMIES Act will bridge the gap in maternal health disparities in underserved communities. Few investments are more important,” said Senator Blumenthal. 

“The United States is the only industrialized country in the world where the maternal mortality rate is increasing, and Black women in particular are three to four times as more likely to die from a pregnancy-related health complication,” said Senator Harris. “This is an unacceptable health crisis in America and we must address it.”

Between 2000 and 2014 the maternal mortality rate in the United States has increased by 26 percent, while it has decreased in other developed countries.  And stark disparities in maternal deaths exist, as black women are nearly four times as likely to die from childbirth complications as white women.  Furthermore, for every woman who dies due to a pregnancy-related complication, dozens more suffer from severe maternal morbidity.   

Specifically, the MOMMIES Act would improve maternal health outcomes by:

  • Extending Medicaid coverage for postpartum women to a full year after giving birth, rather than the current limit of 60 days that many women face
  • Ensuring that all pregnant and postpartum women have full Medicaid coverage, rather than coverage that can be limited to pregnancy-related services
  • Establishing a maternity care home demonstration project to study this innovative model of care in several states
  • Extending the Affordable Care Act’s primary care bump to ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries have access to primary care providers, including women’s health providers
  • Encouraging increased access to doula care to provide pregnant women on Medicaid with emotional, physical, and informational support
  • Studying telemedicine and its effectiveness and potential to improve Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to maternity care

The MOMMIES Act has been endorsed by the following organizations:

Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs

Black Mamas Matter Alliance

Black Women’s Health Imperative

Center for Reproductive Rights

Every Mother Counts

In Our Own Voice

March of Dimes


National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

National Health Law Program

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Women’s Law Center