Haaland Joins Congressional Women to Expand Access to Midwife Care Through Medicaid

May 17, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04), Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) introduced, H.R. 2751, the Mamas First Act, which would expand access to doulas and midwives for millions of women who use Medicaid for their health care needs. The Mamas First Act comes after Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) announced an increase in Medicaid reimbursements for health care providers. Specifically, the bill amends Medicaid to allow doulas as well as health care professionals like certified professional midwives and traditional midwives to be reimbursed. Numerous reports have found that access to doulas and midwives reduces the need for C-sections, decreases maternal anxiety, and improves communication between pregnant women and their health care providers.

According to a recent study, New Mexico is only second to Washington state in the integration of midwife and doula care in prenatal and delivery health programs with more than 26 percent of births being attended by midwives compared to the national average of 10 percent. This bill seeks to build on that success.

In particular, midwifery has long roots in New Mexico. Recent studies show that the care of a midwife or doula could reduce maternal mortality and improve birth outcomes for mothers and babies, particularly in communities where social disadvantages put mothers at risk for adverse birth outcomes.

“When a woman is bringing a child into this world, it’s important that she have safe care that ensures for a healthy mother and baby while respecting cultural traditions. Unfortunately, access to the compassionate practice of a midwife or doula is not available to women who struggle to make ends meet as it is. In New Mexico, there is a proud tradition of midwifery. During my pregnancy there was a program that ensured Medicaid covered my midwife which aided in the healthy birth of my daughter, Somah – all women should have that option. That’s why I’m working to make sure women of all income levels have access to the experience and care that midwives and doulas provide,” said Congresswoman Deb HaalandVice Chair of the Majority Leader Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.

“The United States is experiencing a maternal mortality crisis among our nation’s African American, American Indian, and Alaskan Native mothers, who are dying at four to five times the rate of white women. In hospital settings, women of color often face systematic barriers and racial biases regarding delays in recognizing symptoms, not acknowledging the patient's pain, not fully elaborating on treatment options, and the push for C-sections. All mothers deserve to experience a holistic approach throughout their prenatal care, labor, and postpartum visits,” Congresswoman Gwen Moore said. “Expanding access to the critical services provided by doulas and midwives is one way we can attack these alarming disparities, save lives, and increase access to patient centered care. I am so proud of the initiatives that are going on in Wisconsin and in Milwaukee in this area and my legislation makes clear that it’s time for the federal government to step up to the plate and help support the critical work that doulas and midwives do for our expecting mothers.” 

“Each child birth is different, and women should have access to the maternal services that best fit their circumstances,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. “Women and their doctors should be able to decide what care is best. Income should not relegate a woman to lesser care.”

“DONA international is pleased to partner with the office of Rep. Gwen Moore in introducing legislation that supports making midwifery and doula care more accessible to families across the county. Research shows that both midwifery and doula care improves maternal health outcomes. We believe that it is essential for local and federal legislators to act now to address the maternal healthcare crisis. DONA international represents doulas worldwide and this legislation moves us closer to reaching the DONA International vision of ‘a doula for every person who wants one’” – Ravae S.M. Sinclair, JD, CD(DONA), LCCE, DONA President and Milwaukee based doula

Midwives Alliance of North America is proud to have participated with the office and staff of Congresswoman Gwen Moore in the development of HR 2751, a bill to amend the Social Security Act to allow for Medicaid reimbursement for midwives and doulas. As reflected in numerous studies, MANA believes increasing the midwifery workforce is key to reducing our rising rate of perinatal mortality, particularly for families of color. To this end, we consider the acknowledgement of midwives as essential health care providers to be crucial, and their ability to bill Medicaid necessary to improve outcomes. We remain committed to midwives and the childbearing families they serve.” – Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA)