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U.S. Expectant Mothers Are Dying At Highest Rate In Developed World; NYS Exceeds U.S. Maternal Morbidity & Mortality Rates

Schumer Unveils Three-Part Plan: 1) Pass The Black Maternal Health ‘Momnibus’ Act, 2) Expand Medicaid for Mothers, Including Yearlong Postpartum Coverage and Doula & Midwife Services, 3) Invest In Yonkers’s Only Maternity Unit to Achieve Racial Equity

Schumer: Black Moms Deserve Top Treatment – It’s Time To Deliver It To Them 

Standing at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, where 67% of maternity services are delivered to women on Medicaid or Medicaid Managed Care, surrounded by frontline workers, local officials, and advocates determined to change maternal outcomes among Black women, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today unveiled a comprehensive three-part plan to address the national maternal mortality crisis and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes nationwide and at the only maternity unit in New York’s fourth-largest city. 

Specifically, Schumer said that in the upcoming recovery packages he will first fight to secure major investments found in Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. Second, he will push to make permanent enhancements to Medicaid coverage for pregnant woman and new mothers, including instituting yearlong postpartum Medicaid coverage and expanding Medicaid benefits to include doulas and midwives. Finally, Schumer announced that he will push to invest over $500,000 in the St. John’s Riverside Hospital (SJRH) racial equity project, a crucial community-driven, multi-pronged effort to sustain and improve Maternity services in Yonkers, through his congressionally directed spending requests this year.

“The bottom line is that Black women in New York are at an increased risk of complications, injury and worse related to childbirth and that is just not acceptable. The U.S., is falling behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternal health outcomes, including right here in New York, irrevocably and unconscionably altering families, communities and failing thousands of children who lose their mothers in preventable circumstances,” said Senator Schumer. “Especially for Black, Brown, the poor and all mothers of color who face more daunting and life-threating odds to bring children into the world, we must no longer accept the deepening maternal health crisis, which is why I am pushing for legislation to vastly improve national maternal health outcomes, eliminate the unconscionable racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes that hurt minority women and families in New York and support local maternal health organizations in Yonkers.”

In 2018, the overall rate of potentially life-threatening complications during or after childbirth—known as severe maternal morbidity was 2.7% in New York, potentially amounting to nearly 6,000 New York women experiencing these complications. Moreover, Black women were 2.3 times more likely to experience such complications. In the Hudson Valley, rates of complications were 214 out of 10,000 births. In 2020, New York exceeded the national average for maternal morbidity and maternal mortality. Pointing to these shocking statistics, Schumer outlined his three-part plan to address the maternal health crisis in New York.

First, Schumer said that he will push to include the many critical investments found in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 in the upcoming recovery packages. This historic legislation introduced by Senator Booker and Rep. Underwood will save moms’ lives, end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, and achieve maternal health justice for Black women and all women and birthing people of color. The Momnibus builds on existing maternal health legislation to comprehensively address the root causes of the maternal health crisis by making critical investments in addressing social, non-health related issues that can lead to maternal deaths, funding community-based organizations doing patient-level work to reduce the risks of maternal mortality, training programs for hospital staff on how to avoid maternal deaths, growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce, and improvements in data collection processes. The legislation also aims to address the impacts of the COVID pandemic and climate change on maternal and infant health.

Second, Schumer announced his plan to add major new maternal Medicaid benefits. First, he plans to make to make one-year of postpartum Medicaid coverage a permanent option for new mothers. Schumer passed a temporary, emergency-relief version of this policy in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) he led to passage in the Senate, and now proposes building upon it. The Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has proven that offering pregnant and postpartum women Medicaid coverage reduces racial disparities in health care access and health outcomes for both mothers and children, which is why Schumer is pushing to permanently extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to up to a year. Schumer also plans to include Medicaid coverage for doulas and midwives, who have proven to reduce the risk of maternal deaths and complicated pregnancies, particularly in woman experiencing high-risk pregnancies.

Third, Schumer announced his push to secure a Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) item through the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, requesting over $500,000 in investment for the SJRH racial equity project. Schumer explained that this critical funding will support SJRH’s current partnership with a coalition of local Black women’s health experts in the field.  The project would support more natural and physiologic birthing processes and aims to increase positive health outcomes for Black women by lowering the number of primary C-Sections within Black women delivering at the hospital to a percentage equal to the Healthy People 2030 goal. Schumer said that, according to SJRH, during the first quarter of this year, Black women delivering babies at the hospital were 3 times more likely to have a primary C-Section than white women. Moreover, the project aims to increase the number of Black women who choose to deliver at SJRH by 20 percent.  Currently, the hospital estimates that it serves roughly 22 Black women per month in this capacity.

“The glaring racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality is a national health crisis. We in the New York Senate Democratic Majority are committed to tackle this crisis by passing legislation that addresses the unacceptable disparities in maternal mortality which is especially high among Black women in communities like Yonkers. That is why we championed legislation to extend the postpartum coverage period for Medicaid recipients for one year. I support Senate Majority Leader Schumer's fight to pass the Maternal Health Momnibus Act, the investment in St. John’s Riverside Hospital (SJRH) racial equity project, and making the extension of Postpartum Medicaid Coverage permanent. These strategies will save lives, empower women and create safe and respectful birthing experiences,” said NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

 “Sister to Sister International, Inc. (STSI) links women, girls and families of African descent globally, to the resources that connect, advance and strengthen them. A cornerstone of STSI initiatives is health and wellness where we have a strong focus on maternal health. We thank Senator Schumer for his national and local pushes on this critical healthcare area. STSI looks forward to working with Senator Schumer on his continued efforts to end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health,” said Cheryl Brannan, Founder of Sister to Sister International, Inc.

“For over 150 years, St. John’s Riverside Hospital has strived to provide comprehensive medical and nursing care in a compassionate, professional, respectful and ethical manner to every patient. Recently, with the guidance of St. John’s Committee to Address Regional Equity in Healthcare, we seek to address the significant disparities in maternal health outcomes such as maternal mortality, premature births, low birthweight births and our percentage of cesarean sections in our black community,” said Ronald J. Corti, President/ CEO at St. John’s Riverside Hospital. “We greatly appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to address the black maternal health crisis and thank him for his strong support of our racial equity project to address these disparities here in Yonkers.”

Schumer said that this project will help with the Maternity Unit’s financial viability too, preserving 130 healthcare jobs and the only maternity unit in Yonkers. SJRH is a NYS-recognized Disproportionate-Share Provider and a financially distressed hospital.  They provide millions of dollars annually in uncompensated care and 67% of their maternity services are delivered to women on Medicaid or Medicaid-managed care.

In the U.S., mothers are dying at the highest rate in the developed world, a rate that is only rising. The crisis is most severe for Black mothers, who are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of white mothers. In Westchester County, Black women are more likely to deliver babies with low birth weight (12.4%) than white women (6.9%). This trend continues for premature births (8.4% for white women and 12.0% for Black women) and infant mortality (2.1% for white women and 7.8% for Black women).