VP Kamala Harris to announce expanded plan for maternal health
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The Biden administration is set to announce a new comprehensive maternal health care plan, according to officials familiar with the matter. The initiative will overhaul the current national maternal health care system, which often fails Black and Brown women. 

The Biden administration’s plan is the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. Vice President Kamala Harris will announce the plan at an event in Illinois later this week.

The plan calls for a Medicaid expansion to cover pregnancy and postpartum health for up to a year after birth. While Medicaid currently covers maternal health, in many states the coverage is only provided for just two months after birth. 

Meanwhile, maternal mortality statistics include all events in the year following childbirth. And those statistics are dire, particularly for Black women. 

The official who provided the information also shared some health research outcomes. “Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, and Native American women are more than twice as likely to die.” 

Additionally, Black women face more maternal-related complications, such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, and are more likely to have low-birthweight babies.  Black women are also less likely to receive adequate prenatal care than White women. 

Biden administration reveals plan to address maternal health

However, the Biden administration claims to recognize the unique and harmful challenges facing Black women, and address them. The plan includes money to provide training for maternal health care providers in implicit bias and racial discrimination. 

The Biden plan has an ambitious set of goals, including: 

Increase health care access and coverage:

  • To address bias in health care so women are heard and respected when they raise concerns.
  • To improve data collection.
  • To expand and diversify the medical workforce that cares for pregnant people.
  • To help low income women who lack economic and social supports before, during and after pregnancy.

The Biden initiative adds a new maternal mental health hotline for pregnant and postpartum women, as well as easier access to enroll in such federal programs as housing, healthcare, and income assistance. The plan also includes support for breastfeeding mothers who are returning to work. 

Funding is provided through a $470B appropriation from Biden’s fiscal year 2023 plan. 

The Biden initiative is especially important now, following the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion protection. Nearly half the states in the country now outlaw abortion. 

According to one official, “These continued attacks, including restrictions on abortion, and even family planning, undermine the ability for women to be safe and healthy. The administration feels strongly that the ability to choose when and how to give birth is essential.” 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...