Inaugural Maternal Health Day of Action Hosted by White House
On December 7, 2021, the White House held its first-ever Maternal Health Day of Action, at which it announced several commitments to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.
On behalf of the Biden-Harris administration, Vice President Kamala Harris held a summit with lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries and celebrities to discuss America's maternal mortality rates, which are among the highest in the developed world. The rates are even higher among Black women and Native American women, regardless of their income or education levels.
During the summit, Harris announced a Call to Action to public and private sectors, challenging them to improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States.
"This challenge is urgent, and it is important and it will take all of us," Harris said during her opening remarks. "And to put it simply, here's how I feel about this: In the United States of America, in the 21st century, being pregnant and giving birth should not carry such great risk."
Several groups and organizations have announced their commitment to addressing this health crisis. Harris stated that more than 20 for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations have pledged more than $20 million domestically and $150 million globally toward the effort.
'In the United States of America, in the 21st century, being pregnant and giving birth should not carry such great risk.'
In addition to these investments and the Biden-Harris administration's Build Back Better Act, which includes a $3 billion investment in maternal health, the White House is also encouraging states to expand their postpartum coverage.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing new guidance to states on how to provide Medicaid coverage for a full year postpartum. Currently, "states are only required to provide coverage for 60 days postpartum, despite research showing that many deaths and complications occur more than 60 days following delivery," the White House stated in its press release.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that if states adopt this recommendation (which will be required under the Build Back Better Act if it passes the Senate), then the number of Americans who receive a full year of postpartum coverage would be an estimated 720,000 people annually—roughly double the current number.
The last of the measures announced on the Maternal Health Day of Action is the creation of a new "Birthing-Friendly" hospital designation. This will be the first-ever hospital designation from HHS focused specifically on maternity care. "This designation is intended to be awarded to those hospitals that participate in a collaborative program aimed at improving maternal outcomes and implement patient safety practices," stated the White House.
"This is about the rights of women. This is about the future of our nation," Harris said. "On this Day of Action, may the women of our nation know: I hear you. We hear you."