Convening features panel discussions and breakout sessions to solidify industry commitments and advance key efforts to improve maternity care
On December 13, 2022, White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan E. Rice, Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Carole Johnson, and New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy joined other leaders from across government and health care to open We Can Do Better: Advancing Maternity Care Together – the first CMS convening on maternal health since the agency launched its Maternity Care Action plan in July 2022 as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. Attendees discussed key actions to improve the health of pregnant and postpartum individuals – including the need for a robust and diverse maternity care workforce and the ability for consumers to easily identify health systems engaged in improving maternal care.
Today, as part of the convening, CMS unveiled the logo for the Birthing-Friendly Hospital designation, which will be posted on CMS’ Care Compare website and on the websites of participating health plans, to indicate which facilities have received the Birthing-Friendly Hospital designation. Earlier this year, building on the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, CMS established a “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation – a publicly reported, public-facing hospital designation on the quality and safety of maternity care. This is the first-ever hospital quality designation by HHS that specifically focuses on maternal health. This proposal was made in conjunction with Vice President Harris’ nationwide call to action to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, which included CMS’ intention to establish this proposed hospital designation.
The Department announced today that more than 25 health plans have committed to displaying the “Birthing-Friendly Hospital” designation on their provider directories next fall, when the designation goes live. This commitment will ensure that more than 150 million Americans in total will have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their birth options for care.
HHS also released a new report today exploring the role of doulas in maternal health care. The report, “Doula Care and Maternal Health: An Evidence Review,” reviews the evidence on the effects of doula care on maternal health outcomes, and discusses challenges and policy opportunities for expanding doula care in the U.S., including recent developments in Medicaid and actions being taken as part of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. The report reveals that doulas – professionals trained to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to pregnant and postpartum individuals – positively impact several maternal and infant health outcomes before, during, and after labor. An early, observational study of low-income women (41% of whom were Black), for example, found that doula-assisted mothers were less likely to give birth to babies with low birthweight or to experience birth complications.
The We Can Do Better: Advancing Maternity Care Together convening marks the latest step on the road to better maternal health outcomes championed by the Biden-Harris Administration. The Biden-Harris Administration has championed policies to improve maternal health and equity since the President and Vice President first took office. In April 2021, President Biden issued the first-ever Presidential Proclamation marking Black Maternal Health Week. In December 2021, Vice President Harris hosted the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action, where she announced important commitments to address the maternal health crisis. The Vice President also issued a call to action to the private and public sectors to improve maternal health outcomes, where she urged states to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from two months to 12 months, and announced guidance for how states can extend their coverage. Additionally, she convened a historic meeting with Cabinet secretaries and agency leaders to discuss the Administration’s whole-of-government approach to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity.
These efforts include the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis and a request for $470 million to address maternal health needs in the President’s 2023 budget. That funding would support several actions to address maternal health, including:
- Requiring 12 months of postpartum coverage in Medicaid;
- Implementing state-specific innovative action plans to improve access to maternal care services and address workforce needs through HRSA’s Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health;
- Expanding HRSA’s Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program to improve maternal and obstetrics care in rural communities;
- Expanding health care providers’ capacity to screen, assess, treat, and refer pregnant and postpartum individuals for maternal depression and related behavioral health needs;
- Investing in a new HRSA initiative to address social determinants of maternal health, grow and diversify the doula and nursing workforce, and research and curricula development;
- Supporting minority-serving institutions;
- Creating pregnancy medical home demonstration projects;
- Strengthening data collection and evaluation; and
- Addressing behavioral health disorders.
Statements from Principals
White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice
“In the United States of America, giving birth should never be a death sentence. President Biden and Vice President Harris have made it a priority to address the maternal health crisis from the very beginning of this Administration, including through the creation of the first-ever Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. This convening is an important part of bringing about a future where every women has a smooth and healthy experience before, during, and after childbirth.”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra
“From day one of this Administration, President Biden and Vice President Harris have been champions in the effort to improve maternal health care and equity, and we are proud to deliver on their calls for big, bold action. We will continue working with our partners across government and industry to ensure that every pregnant and postpartum person gets the high-quality health care they deserve. This is an urgent priority, and our nation can – and must – do better.”
CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
“This was a pivotal moment to advance work started by the Office of the Vice President and designed to empower CMS, HHS, and the whole health care ecosystem to position the U.S. as the leader it can be in maternal care. The ‘Birthing-Friendly’ logo we’ve unveiled is one powerful example. It’s poised to become a tangible marker for expectant mothers of the evidence-based care they not only should expect but also deserve.”
HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson
“Today’s event reinforces the critical need for the investments included in the President’s Budget to improve maternal and infant health outcomes and equity. We must continue to build a maternal health workforce that reflects the communities and voices of those it serves, support pregnant people not only in their clinical care but also in the community, and continue to strengthen federal-state partnerships in this work. We look forward to Congress acting quickly on these priorities.”
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy
“I am incredibly grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration for their unwavering support of the mothers and babies across our country, especially mothers and babies of color. For the past five years, I have heard from mothers in New Jersey who have lost their babies – or very nearly their own lives, fathers who have lost their life partners, and countless women of color who have told tragically similar stories; stories of not being listened to or receiving the care that they needed and deserved, at a time when they could not have been more vulnerable. In January 2021, we released the Nurture NJ Strategic Plan to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable state in the nation to deliver and raise a baby. Our most significant changes to date have been in partnership with the Administration, HHS, and CMS, such as reimbursement of doula care through Medicaid and expanding Medicaid coverage to 365 days post-partum. Now, I look forward to that continued partnership in my newest capacity as the Chair of the National Governors Association’s Spouses Program, where I have chosen to use my platform and lessons learned to elevate the conversation on our national maternal health crisis.”