Durbin, Kelly Announce Legislation To Lower The Nation’s Rising Maternal And Infant Mortality Rates

Bill Would Also Address Racial Disparities In Health Outcomes For New Moms And Babies

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) today announced the reintroduction of their legislation to help lower America’s rising maternal and infant mortality rates and reduce racial disparities in health outcomes. The Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act, which will be formally introduced by Durbin and Kelly in the House and Senate next week, aims to improve care women receive before, during, and after pregnancy.

“No nation as rich and advanced as the United States should have new moms and infants—especially women and babies of color—dying at the rates we are currently seeing. It is a national tragedy,” Durbin said. “Many of these deaths could have been prevented with the right interventions and the right health care. That’s why Congresswoman Kelly and I are introducing the MOMMA Act to help provide more comprehensive and culturally competent maternal and postpartum health care for all women.”

“Mommas are dying in Illinois and across this country. In 2015, Illinois lost 93 mothers to maternal mortality and it’s estimated that nearly three-quarters of these death were preventable. That’s simply unacceptable,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust and member of the health subcommittee. “It’s time for Congress to act on maternal mortality and pass the MOMMA’s Act. There is no reason it should be more dangerous to have a baby today than it was 25 years ago.”

The United States is one of only 13 countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality – the death of a woman related to pregnancy or childbirth up to a year postpartum – is worse now than it was 25 years ago. Each year, an estimated 700 to 900 maternal deaths occur in the United States, with another 70,000 women suffering near-fatal, pregnancy related complications. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of maternal deaths nationwide are preventable. Further, every year, more than 23,000 infants die nationwide. Today, the United States ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations when it comes to infant mortality.

In Illinois, between 2009 and 2016, an average of 73 woman died each year either during childbirth or within one year of their pregnancy – with black women being six times more likely than white women to die of a pregnancy-related complications. In Illinois, 72 percent of these pregnancy-related deaths were deemed preventable.

Based on a number of ideas recommended by the Illinois Department of Public Health’s 2018 Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report, The MOMMA Act would:

·       Expand Medicaid coverage for mothers up to one year postpartum (versus 60 days in current law) with full federal funding for this expansion population;

·       Improve coverage and access to doulas;

·       Improve hospital coordination and reporting on maternal outcomes;

·       Ensure adoption and implementation of best practices for improving maternity care; and

·       Create regional centers of excellence to improve implicit bias and cultural competency training among health care providers.

The MOMMA Act is paid for by increasing the federal tobacco tax on cigarettes, and closing federal tax loopholes for cigars and e-cigarettes.

The bill is supported by a number of women’s health groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Black Women’s Health Imperative, National Urban League, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, EverThrive Illinois, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.