U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler took a trio of stalled maternal health bills off the shelf last week, a series of reintroductions aimed at improving outcomes for new mothers and infants.
The most significant is the Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services, or MOMS, Act, which would incentivize states to extend Medicaid coverage up to one year postpartum. Along with the Battle Ground Republican, Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., is a co-sponsor.
"With 70 percent of new moms encountering a health complication within the first year of giving birth, it's critical that they have access to medical care during this vulnerable time," Herrera Beutler said in a media release. "Advancing the Helping MOMS Act into law would be an important step in stemming the maternal mortality crisis in the United States."
States that agree to offer extended coverage would receive a 5 percent bump in federal funding for pregnancy-related coverage. Under current law, babies remain covered for a year but their mothers are only guaranteed 60 days of Medicaid coverage after giving birth.
In 2019, Herrera Beutler co-sponsored an earlier version of the same bill. It passed the House the following year but was never taken up in the Senate.
Another bill back on the table as of last week is the Birth Access Benefiting Improved Essential Facility Services, or BABIES, Act. It's aimed at expanding access to freestanding birth centers — places to give birth outside of a hospital setting, usually in the care of a midwife — for Medicaid recipients.
The bill would create a process for birth centers to receive Medicaid reimbursements for prenatal care, perinatal, and postpartum mother and infant care.
The BABIES Act was also introduced in 2019 but died in the health subcommittee.
A third maternity-related bill back on the floor, yet another 2019 revival, is the Midwives for Maximizing Optimal Maternity Services Act. The bill would establish two new funding streams for midwife education, granting preference for students from minority or underrepresented populations.
"With high rates of maternal mortality, preterm births, and lack of prenatal care for mothers, maternity care has reached a crisis level across our country," Herrera Beutler said. "To see more healthy pregnancies and thriving babies we need to support and strengthen care for moms and their infants in Southwest Washington and across America, which is exactly what these legislative solutions will do."
The congresswoman was one of the original co-sponsors on the same bill two years ago. That version also died in the House health subcommittee.
Herrera Beutler is a co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care, a bipartisan group she formed with Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., in 2015. The caucus focuses on narrowly targeted health care initiatives for moms and babies. Past legislative victories include a bill making it easier for parents to bring breast milk onto airplanes and a bill authorizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate maternal deaths.