WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday announced new steps to improve maternal health in the United States, including investments of over $20 million, increased Medicaid postpartum coverage and an initiative to designate hospitals based on their maternal care.
Harris made the announcements during a White House meeting to promote improvements in maternal health, noting the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any wealthy nation in the world.
“In the United States of America, in the 21st century, being pregnant and giving birth should not carry such a great risk,” the vice president said. “But the truth is, women in our nation are dying before, during and after childbirth.”
These rates have worsened over the past 20 years and are especially high among Black women and Native American women, regardless of their income or education levels, she said.
As part of the first White House Maternal Health Day of Action, Harris said the Department of Health & Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are launching a new initiative to designate hospitals based on the quality of their maternal healthcare.
Harris also announced that more than 20 companies and non-profits have pledged to invest more than $20 million in maternal health efforts in the United States and over $150 million globally.
The White House said CMS will release new guidance to help states provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage through Medicaid programs, up from 60 days currently.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act – a $1.75 trillion social policy and climate package that was passed by the House of Representatives in November – includes $3 billion of investments in maternal health.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Nandita Bose; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Dan Grebler)