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Assembly Committees Hold Joint Hearing to Discuss 14-bill Maternal Health Package

Bills Aim to Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality Rates Between African-American and White Women

In a collaborative effort to raise awareness, provide education and offer evidence-based solutions for a growing problem in our communities–maternal deaths–the Assembly Health and Senior Citizens, and Women and Children Committees held a joint hearing today where they discussed a 14-bill maternal health package that was introduced Thursday.

“We have to sound the alarm on this issue,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr. (D-Burlington) who chairs the Assembly Health and Senior Citizens Committee and is a physician. “For thousands of women, the surge in maternal deaths has caused childbirth to become a time of concern, and sometimes death, rather than joy and excitement.”

New Jersey ranks 47th among the states in maternal mortality, with a rate of 37.3 deaths per every 100,000 live births. Black women in New Jersey are five times more likely than their white counterparts to die from pregnancy-related complications.

“These statistics represent more than numbers, especially for me,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. “My husband and I are expecting our second child so they speak to me personally. They go beyond this legislation, which I fully support.”

The bills seek a collaborative effort between a broad of array of stakeholders–mothers, fathers, health professionals, medical educators and experts, legislators, health agencies, community advocates and others–to help women have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery.

According to an ABC report, “Pregnancy-related deaths have increased nationally from 7.2 per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 18 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, according to research cited in H.R. 1318.

The bills specifically address the issue of African-American women and why they are at such higher risk of dying from pregnancy complications than white women. During 2011-2014, the CDC found alarming racial disparities in maternal infant mortality deaths nationwide: 12.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women compared to a staggering 40 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women.

“I have given birth to four children–all by Caesarean section,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Essex) who serves on both committees and spoke at the hearing. “I really wish there had been the type of education being proposed in this bill-package when I delivered my children. If I had been made fully aware of the various maternal health and delivery options, maybe I could have experienced at least one vaginal birth.”

Comprehensive, resource driven and action oriented, the maternal health package covers a wide array of maternal health issues and includes:

Pintor Marin/Jimenez/Sumter Provides Medicaid coverage for doula care.

Sumter/Swain Establishes training protocols and treatment guidelines for general hospital providing maternity care.

Conaway/Quijano Requires DOH to establish maternity care evaluation protocols and a maternity care evaluation database.

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Mazzeo/Taliaferro Establishes perinatal episode of care pilot progam in Medicaid.

Timberlake/Lampitt “Listening to Mothers Survey Act”; requires DOH to establish survey to evaluate and improve maternity care access and services.

Reynolds-Jackson/Jones Provides Medicaid coverage to eligible pregnant women for 365-day period beginning on last day of pregnancy.

McKnight/Mukherji Prohibits health benefits coverage for certain non-medically indicated early elective deliveries under Medicaid program, SHBP, and SEHBP.

Carter/Chaparro Establishes maternal health care pilot program to evaluate shared decision-making tool developed by DOH and used by hospitals providing maternity services, and by birthing centers.

Jasey/Johnson Requires DOH to identify and take appropriate steps to secure federal sources of funding to support maternal mental health.

Tucker/Pinkin Requires DOH to establish “My Life, My Plan” program to support women of childbearing age in developing reproductive life plan.

Lopez/Wimberly Requires DOH to develop interconception care resources to enhance postpartum care for women.

Downey/Holley Directs DOH to develop standardized perinatal health curriculum for community health workers.

Vainieri Huttle/Spearman Requires Commissioner of Health to establish maternity care public health campain.

Speight/Murphy Encourages DOH to develop set of standards for respectful care at birth and to conduct public outreach initiative. The bills were released by the committees and will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.