It’s past time to improve maternity care in Virginia
Each year, 700 to 900 women in the U.S. die — and 65,000 nearly die — from pregnancy-related causes. In every other wealthy country, maternal deaths have been decreasing, but between 2000 and 2014, maternal mortality rates in the U.S. began to increase — an unacceptable development in a country with some of the best hospitals and medical professionals in the world.
60 percent of these deaths are preventable, and a big part of the reason for the rise is not lack of staff or lack of adequate facilities to care for new and expectant moms. Our health care system needlessly creates a false choice between providing outstanding fetal and newborn care and the same standard of maternal care.
Each year, the states receive a federal block grant dedicated to maternal and child health. Nationally, 78 percent of those funds go toward essential programs for infants and special needs children, versus a mere 6 percent toward maternal care.
As a result, hospitals and hospital staff are extremely focused on infant care, often at the expense of maternal care. Babies are closely monitored after birth for signs of distress, while moms are not always monitored as carefully. Upon discharge, moms are trained in the signs that their baby may be sick but not necessarily in the symptoms that they themselves are at risk.
To make matters worse, if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017 passes, it could gut maternal and infant care under Medicaid — which already only covers moms for 60 days postpartum, while infants are covered for a full year.
In Congress, I voted to pass the Affordable Care Act. While the bill was being considered on the floor of the House of Representatives, I fought to ensure that pregnancy and infant care were included in the essential benefits insurers must cover. As governor, I will push hard to expand Medicaid in Virginia and will require that every insurance provider maintain complete coverage for preexisting conditions and all ten of the essential benefits under the ACA — including maternal and infant care.
I will also devote more federal and state money to maternal care. I will encourage Virginia’s hospitals to use that money to implement educational and training programs on high risk obstetrics, increase preventative screenings and monitoring for signs of peri- and postpartum maternal distress, and teach new and expectant moms to self-monitor for symptoms of dangerous pregnancy and postpartum conditions.
Maternal mortality disproportionately affects black, low income, and rural communities. Leveling inequality must be approached intersectionally, by prioritizing the issues that cut across income, education, ethnic, and ideological boundaries. I have centered my campaign around ensuring an inclusive Virginia: my tax plan will promote inclusive economic growth, my working families plan will ensure that all citizens of our Commonwealth can earn a fair wage for hard work, my plan to tackle hate and discrimination against the LGBTQ community will drive our culture and constitution toward equality, and my plan to stand with Virginia’s women will push for gender equity in all aspects of our economy and community.
We don’t have to choose between providing excellent fetal and infant care and guaranteeing that same level of medical supervision and treatment for Virginia’s moms. It is past time we ensure that new and expectant moms receive the same top notch care that we provide their babies.
For moms across our Commonwealth, we can do better.