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May 4, 2024

Bill to Improve Black Maternal Health Care Coverage, Improve Birth Outcomes Passes House

DENVER, CO – The House today passed a bill that aims to improve perinatal health outcomes, especially in Black and historically marginalized communities. SB24-175, sponsored by Representatives Barbara McLachlan and Iman Jodeh, would require large employers to cover doula services.

“Addressing the access gap in health care coverage is the first step we can take to reduce our country’s maternal mortality rate, which is far too high and disproportionately high for Black, American Indian and rural mothers,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “To improve health outcomes for expecting mothers, including those in rural and remote areas, we need to ensure they have access to a range of perinatal care and that it’s covered by their insurance.I’m proud to sponsor this bill to keep expecting mothers and their newborns safe.” 

“As a new mother myself, I want the best possible outcomes for all expecting mothers. Yet, our country’s maternal mortality rate reflects a different reality, especially for Black mothers,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh. “This bill works to combat the maternal mortality rate by encouraging hospitals to focus on improving their maternal or infant health outcomes, expanding insurance coverage for doula services and improving health equity training for birthing health care providers.” 

SB24-175, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 11, would require large employer health benefit plans to cover doula services in alignment with Medicaid. The bill would also instruct hospitals that provide labor and delivery or neonatal care services to participate in at least one maternal or infant health quality improvement initiative.

Under this bill, CDPHE would create a program that provides financial support to hospitals in rural areas, hospitals serving a higher percentage of Medicaid and uninsured patients, or hospitals with lower-acuity maternal and neonatal care. The department is directed to health outcome and disparity data, particularly among American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Black birthing populations. Lastly, the bill requires coverage of over-the-counter and prescribed choline supplements for pregnant people.

Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. According to the CDC, multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as variation in quality of and access to health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. SB24-175 intends to address systemic racism in health care and develop better care for historically marginalized communities.

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