Underwood’s Bipartisan Legislation to Address America’s Maternal Mortality Crisis Passes the Energy and Commerce Committee

November 20, 2019
Press Release
The Helping MOMS Act would incentivize state-level Medicaid extension to the entire postpartum period and invest in maternal-specific public health

WASHINGTON— Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed legislation championed by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) to address America’s maternal mortality crisis. The Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act (H.R. 4996) was introduced by a bipartisan group of members of Congress who are committed to improving the United States’ alarmingly high maternal mortality rates. The CDC reports that approximately 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy-related complications.

Today, the majority of pregnancy-related deaths in America happen after the day of delivery, and nearly one quarter of deaths happen more than six weeks postpartum. Yet despite the life-threatening risks that women face in the postpartum period, Medicaid currently only covers women for two months after the birth of their baby. Given that Medicaid pays for nearly half of all births in the United States, we have a responsibility to do better. The bipartisan Helping MOMS Act would allow states to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms through the entire postpartum period and provide a one-year, 5 percentage point Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) enhancement to incentivize extension. Along with Underwood, the Helping MOMS Act is co-led by Representatives Robin Kelly (IL-2), Michael Burgess, MD (TX-26), Buddy Carter (GA-1), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), and Ayanna Pressley (MA-7).

“The bipartisan Helping MOMS Act is a historic step toward ensuring every mother in America has health coverage after giving birth, which will save lives and improve maternal outcomes,” said Rep. Underwood. “I am grateful to the countless organizations who work to improve the health of women and end intolerable health disparities: they are indispensable to ensuring this legislation results in improved outcomes for women – and Black women in particular. I am pleased to see my bill advanced out of the Energy and Commerce Committee and will continue to advocate and fight for policy solutions to save lives.

Underwood launched the Black Maternal Health Caucus earlier this year with Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) to elevate the Black maternal health crisis within Congress and advance policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes and end disparities.

The Helping MOMS Act has received endorsements by many leading health and family advocates and organizations.  

“This is a significant step forward in ensuring access to health care during the critical first year after a woman gives birth which will help reverse the troubling trajectory in the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States…The Helping MOMS Act will help us to build upon our commitment to expand access to health care and social services for postpartum women,” Joyce Rogers, Chief Government Affairs Officer of Advocate Aurora Health.

“We applaud the leadership of Congresswomen Lauren Underwood and Alma Adams and the work of the Black Maternal Health Caucus…in their approach of engaging consumer and community-based groups that represent and serve Black women and families on Medicaid every day as an integral partner in the policy development process, not as a token or afterthought,” said Katie Shea Barrett, Executive Director of March for Moms.

“Every Mother Counts writes to express our support for the bipartisan Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services Act (H.R. 4996). Every Mother Counts is a non-profit organization seeking to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere, by working to achieve quality, respectful, and equitable maternity care for all. We appreciate your leadership in ensuring that the U.S. maternal health care crisis receives the attention required to improve the health and health care experiences of women and infants across the country, and to eliminate the extreme health disparities affecting communities of color and Indigenous communities,” wrote members of Every Mother Counts.

The Helping MOMS Act is additionally endorsed by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), Black Women’s Health Imperative, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Medical Association (AMA), National Perinatal Task Force, Commonsense Childbirth, March of Dimes, National Birth Equity Collaborative, Associations Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP), Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), Preeclampsia Foundation, WomenHeart, Medicaid Health Plans of America (MHPA), Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Shades of Blue Project, Illinois Health and Hospital Association, Every Mother Counts, 2020 Mom, Mom Congress, Northwestern Medicine, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, First Focus Campaign for Children, Advocate Aurora Health, Families USA, American Public Health Association (APHA), National Partnership for Women & Families, Ancient Song Doula Services, 1,000 Days, FPA Women’s Health, American Association of Birth Centers, March for Moms, Center for Reproductive Rights, Virginia Premier, CVS Health, American Hospital Association, Greater New York Hospital Association, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.