Senator Calls for Health Committee Markup on Bill to Provide Training For Medical Professionals, Expand Telehealth, Improve Data Collection and Encourage Regional Care Coordination

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/04/19]–U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is continuing her efforts with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to ensure new and expecting moms living in rural communities get the care they need by calling on Senate Health Committee leaders to hold a markup for the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) Act.

Earlier this year, Sen. Smith introduced her Rural MOMS legislation after hearing from Minnesotans and providers about the struggles families face in accessing maternity and obstetric care in rural areas and small towns. And this fall, the House companion bill to Sens. Smith and Murkowski’s bill advanced out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

“We believe Congress must take swift action to improve access to quality maternal and obstetric care. We urge you to hold a Committee markup to consider the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act,” wrote Sens. Smith and Murkowski. “This bill would improve rural maternal and obstetric care data, provide new rural obstetric network grants to establish regional innovation networks, expand federal telehealth grant programs to include birth and postpartum services, allow use of federal funding to be used on modernizing maternal and obstetric health technology, establish new rural maternal and obstetric care training programs, and report on maternal care in rural areas to identify locations of gaps in maternity care.

“It is time we address the health disparities that prevent rural families from accessing quality care they can afford.”

You can access a full copy of the letter here or below:

December 3, 2019
The Honorable Lamar Alexander
Chairman
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray,

We write to request a markup in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on the bipartisan Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act to address the root causes of maternal mortality and morbidity and develop solutions to improve maternal care in rural America.

The Rural MOMS Act has garnered bipartisan support and recently advanced out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on November 19. We are encouraged by our colleagues in the House and their efforts to improve maternal care in rural areas.

The United States ranks forty-sixth when it comes to pregnancy related deaths and is the only industrialized country in the world with an increasing maternal mortality rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a woman giving birth in 1987 had a greater likelihood of surviving childbirth than her daughter does today. The increasing prevalence of maternal mortality in the U.S. is one that discriminates against communities of color. African American women are over three times as likely to die due to a pregnancy-related complication, and American Indian and Alaska Native women are two and a half times as likely to die.

Maternal mortality is a particularly striking issue in rural America. With shortages of health care providers and a challenging payer mix, rural hospitals are more likely to close their labor and delivery units in order to make ends meet. In fact, more than half of rural counties lack hospitals with labor and birthing services. This contributes to a disparity in access to care and worse outcomes for the 18 million women and people of reproductive age who live in rural areas. Unfortunately, as in urban America, this disparity is more prominent for minority populations. Counties with more black residents are at greater risk of losing their labor and delivery services. Worsening access to maternity care in rural America further exacerbates health disparities between white populations and communities of color.

In the wealthiest country in the world, this is unacceptable. Nearly 60 percent of maternal mortality is preventable. Hemorrhage, mental health conditions, and hypertension are some of the leading causes of maternal mortality, and they can all be prevented.

We believe Congress must take swift action to improve access to quality maternal and obstetric care. We urge you to hold a Committee markup to consider the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act. This bill would improve rural maternal and obstetric care data, provide new rural obstetric network grants to establish regional innovation networks, expand federal telehealth grant programs to include birth and postpartum services, allow use of federal funding to be used on modernizing maternal and obstetric health technology, establish new rural maternal and obstetric care training programs, and report on maternal care in rural areas to identify locations of gaps in maternity care.

It is time we address the health disparities that prevent rural families from accessing quality care they can afford. Thank you for considering our request. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to reach out to Kripa Sreepada with Senator Smith or Anna Dietderich with Senator Murkowski.
 

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