By Brandon Cline
Managing Editor 

Rep. Newhouse cosponsors bill aimed at addressing high rural maternal mortality rates


Last updated 9/13/2019 at 11:27pm

On Sept. 9, Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) and four other cosponsors introduced the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act—H.R. 4243—in the U.S. House of Representatives, after a bill with the same name—S. 2373—was introduced in the U.S. Senate in July by Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and three other cosponsors.

The bill aims to address rural maternal mortality and morbidity rates by “expanding convenient and consistent access to health care services for pregnant women and new mothers in remote areas,” according to a press release from Rep. Newhouse’s office.

The Rural MOMS Act would require the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to: coordinate efforts around maternal mortality and morbidity; report on women’s health conditions according to sociocultural and geographic contexts; and to emphasize research on pregnancy-related deaths.

The bill would also award rural obstetric network grants to assist in the creation of regional innovation networks to address maternal mortality morbidity rates, as well as birth outcomes. It would expand existing Federal Telehealth Grant Programs to include birth and postnatal services as part of telehealth networks. Federal funding would also be utilized for the cost of ultrasound machines, fetal monitoring equipment and other pregnancy-related technology.

Training demonstrations on rural maternal and obstetric care would also be enacted for family medicine physicians, obstetricians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other medical professionals to provide maternal care services in rural community-based settings.

Reports on maternal care in rural areas would also be authorized in efforts to identify: the locations of gaps in maternity care; recommendations to standardize data collection on maternal mortality and morbidity; and activities to improve maternal care in rural areas.

“By creating rural obstetric networks and new training for health professionals, we can empower our maternal health systems to adapt to best meet the needs of these communities,” said Rep. Newhouse. “The Rural MOMS Act will expand data collection and telehealth programs for rural providers to help deliver quality care and improve outcomes for expecting mothers and families in Central Washington and those in rural areas across the nation.”

According to 2015 data from the CDC, the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births in most rural areas in the United States was 29.4, while the maternal mortality rate in large central metropolitan areas was 18.2. According to various governmental and non-governmental studies, the U.S. has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

“Expectant mothers should have the peace of mind that no matter where they choose to start a family, they will have access to the resources they need to bring healthy babies into the world,” said Rep. Torres Small. “My bill is a welcome step in making that a reality by expanding telehealth access and bringing additional OB/GYNs directly to rural communities like the ones I represent.”

The senate bill was introduced on July 31 by Smith and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Other cosponsors include Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

Other cosponsors to the house bill include Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), Bob Latta (R-OH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Tom Cole (R-OK).


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