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McKnight, Mukherji & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Better Protect Health of Mothers and Babies Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Raj Mukherji and Valerie Vainieri Huttle aimed to improve medical outcomes for mothers and newborn babies was signed into law Wednesday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The new law prohibits health coverage under Medicaid of certain scheduled caesarean section deliveries or labor induction without medical necessity.

“Many expectant mothers who chose to schedule the birth of their baby by early induction or a C-section without a medical reason may not fully understand the risks involved,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Newborns may face respiratory complications, hypoglycemia, pneumonia and other conditions, and mothers may experience bleeding, infections and anesthesia complications. We must do all we can to prevent pregnant women in New Jersey from going through this process unless it’s an absolute necessity.”

The new law (formerly bill A-4935) prohibits the health benefits coverage of certain non-medically indicated early elective deliveries under the Medicaid Program, the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP).  It prohibits health benefits contracts issued or purchased pursuant to the SHBP, SEHBP, and Medicaid, as well as services purchased under the fee-for-service delivery system within Medicaid, from providing health benefits coverage or reimbursing a provider for a non-medically indicated early elective delivery performed at a hospital on a pregnant woman earlier than the 39th week of gestation.

A “non-medically indicated early elective delivery” is defined under the law as the artificial start of the birth process through medical interventions or other methods, also known as labor induction, or the surgical delivery of a baby via a caesarean section for purposes or reasons that are not fully consistent with established standards of clinical care as provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

“Without a medical necessity, early scheduled births have no known benefits for mothers or their babies,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “In fact, doctors have long discouraged non-medically indicated deliveries before a mother is 39 weeks pregnant. Reducing early elected births will protect mothers and newborns from the risk of these procedures and improve maternal health in our state.”

“A pregnant woman should only deliver her baby by C-section or early induction for medical reasons,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) “It’s estimated that 1,700 babies in New Jersey are needlessly delivered early, putting them and their mothers in danger of otherwise preventable complications. This new law will take us one step closer to ending early, non-medically necessary births in New Jersey and promote the health and well-being of new mothers and babies.”

Additionally, the law requires the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services to provide accessible educational materials to inform pregnant women, their support networks and Medicaid providers about the risks of non-medically indicated early elective deliveries.

The law was approved by the full Assembly in March by a vote of 56-17-6.