Washington, D.C. — Last night the House of Representatives passed the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act (H.R. 315), introduced by Congressman Michael C. Burgess M.D. (R-TX), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act would increase data collection by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help place maternity care health professionals working in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) throughout geographic regions experiencing a health professional shortage.
“This legislation takes an important step to ensure more effective and efficient placement of maternity care providers in regions where they are needed the most through existing government programs,” said Burgess. “Consistent, high-quality maternity care is of the utmost importance for both mothers and babies to ensure a safe, healthy pregnancy. It is encouraging that the House of Representatives shares my belief that no mother should ever have to compromise access to quality maternity care based on her location in the country.”
“As co-chair of the Congressional Maternity Care Caucus, I know that babies are born healthier when their mothers receive comprehensive prenatal and childbirth care,” said Roybal-Allard. “Tragically, more than a third of U.S. counties currently have no obstetricians or nurse midwives to provide pregnant women with the maternity care they need. Our legislation will help the Department of Health and Human Services identify which areas of the U.S. are in need of maternity care professionals, so that the Department can place doctors and midwives in these areas to offer comprehensive prenatal and childbirth care to mothers and babies.”
“Today, many women in our country have to travel hundreds of miles to access maternity care services,” said Eshoo. “Expectant mothers need medical care from conception to birth, and studies have shown that mothers who do not receive this care, risk giving birth to children with serious health problems. This legislation will increase data collection to help target and place maternal health professionals in the many areas of our country that have chronic shortages of CNMs and OB-GYNs. As policymakers, it’s our responsibility to guarantee that every new mother has access to maternity care services. I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan effort in the House that will help to bring the appropriate care to expectant mothers and healthy newborns regardless of where they live.”
“Across the country, women and babies suffer unnecessary risks due to a shortage of maternity care providers, including obstetrician-gynecologists,” Dr. Thomas Gellhaus, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said. “Access to quality maternal care is essential for healthy mothers and healthy babies and this legislation will help ensure that women’s health care providers are where they are most needed.”
The National Health Service Corps provides student loan repayment to physicians and other health professionals in exchange for a commitment by those professionals to provide care in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. This program has been effective in reducing provider shortages by inspiring new providers to start where they are needed most. This legislation would more effectively allocate maternity care providers based on an area or population’s specific needs. Maternity care providers’ participation will be targeted to areas with a demonstrated shortage of maternity care providers, not just a primary care shortage. This is a budget neutral bill.
This bill has the support of several organizations including the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) and the March of Dimes.