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June 5, 2024

SIGNED! New Law Will Improve Black Maternal Health Care Coverage

More than 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable

DENVER, CO – Today, Governor Jared Polis signed legislation that aims to improve perinatal health outcomes, especially in Black and historically marginalized communities. 

SB24-175, sponsored by Senators Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, and Representatives Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, requires large employer health benefit plans to cover doula services in alignment with Medicaid. The law also instructs hospitals that provide labor and delivery or neonatal care services to participate in at least one maternal or infant health quality improvement initiative. 

Additionally, the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will contract with a Colorado perinatal care quality collaborative to provide maternal and infant health equity improvement initiatives to hospitals; track disparity and health outcome data; and address disparate outcomes particularly among American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Black birthing populations.

“The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any rich country and significant disparities in outcomes – and the crisis will continue to worsen unless we act,” said Fields. “This law is incredibly important as it addresses gaps in coverage and holds hospitals accountable for ensuring equitable care for all people, and I’m proud to see it signed today.” 

“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 McLachlan. “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 have sponsored this law to keep expecting mothers and their newborns safe.”

“No Black woman should lose their life, or come close to losing their life, in an attempt to birth their child,” Buckner said. “While maternal mortality rates around the world fell 44 percent, maternal mortality rates in the United States increased by 16.7 percent during that same period of time. It's unacceptable. Working to solve our maternal health crisis – especially for Black and historically marginalized communities – will lead to better economic, health, and social outcomes while saving lives.”

“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 Jodeh. “This law 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.”

Under this law, CDPHE will 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. Lastly, it 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 health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. SB24-175 intends to address systemic racism in health care and develop better and more culturally informed care for historically marginalized communities.

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