Governor Carney Signs Multiple Pieces of Legislation Related to Maternal and Infant Health
WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney signed multiple pieces of legislation on Monday related to maternal and infant health aimed at decreasing infant and maternal mortality and expanding services to communities across the state. The series of legislation will improve health outcomes for families and infants throughout Delaware.
“This package of legislation is important for our community,” said Governor Carney. “Every child deserves a first chance to succeed and every mother and family should feel supported throughout and after a pregnancy. These bills will help address infant and maternal mortality in our community and expand services to families across the state. Thank you to Representative Minor-Brown, Senator Pinkney and other members of the General Assembly for their leadership on these pieces of legislation. Thank you to the health care providers and the advocates for the work they do every day.”
The United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among high-income countries and wide disparities by race that have been documented since rates separated by race were first published in 1935.
“As a nurse and a Black woman, I am extremely aware of the maternal and infant health issues affecting Delaware families, particularly Black mothers and babies. I personally experienced preventable complications during both of my pregnancies, as an 18-year-old and as a 30-year-old registered nurse,” said Representative Melissa Minor-Brown, who was the lead House sponsor of all six bills. “Black women made up one of every four women giving birth in Delaware between 2011 and 2018, but they made up half of the mothers who died in childbirth. These are more than statistics; they are mothers and children who leave behind loved ones. These new laws are designed to help all Delaware mothers and infants, to improve their outcomes and increase their chances for a successful and healthy pregnancy, birthing process and postpartum. Taken together, these laws will make a huge impact on Delaware families across the state by breaking down barriers to vital healthcare treatment and removing other obstacles that mothers and families have faced.”
“I am incredibly proud of this package of legislation, both as a Black woman and as a social worker. All too often, I see patients without adequate insurance who can’t afford to keep up with their recommended care plans once they are discharged,” said Senator Marie Pinkney. “I have seen patients who have been discriminated against based on their race, their gender identity and their substance use. I have seen the difference in outcomes between birthing mothers who had access to a doula and those who did not. As lawmakers, we must do everything in our power to make it easier for new mothers to focus on birthing healthy children and then to advocate for their prenatal and postpartum needs. These bills will remove barriers and reduce disparities for all future generations of Delaware mothers.”
House Bill 340 revamps the Child Death Review Commission to include more focus on maternal concerns. The commission will be renamed the Maternal and Child Death Review Commission to reflect its existing dual focus. The definition of “maternal death” will also be updated and the Commission would reflect diverse membership that would include a midwife and one maternal and one child advocate from statewide non-profit organizations. In an effort to be transparent, the group will be required to publicly post its draft report and accept written public comment.
“The Child Death Review Commission is a critical function of our state’s judiciary,” said Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend. “By expanding its scope to focus on maternal issues, we may better understand some of the social determinants of health that affect pregnancy and the following months of postpartum recovery.”
House Bill 344(S) requires the Delaware Perinatal Quality Collaborative to establish a subcommittee to develop bias and cultural competency training for healthcare employees. The subcommittee will develop training guidelines designed for use in all healthcare fields and shall release the initial guidelines by July 1, 2023. The subcommittee will review data every year thereafter and revise the guidelines as necessary.
“Delaware has world class health care providers, but they are also human. The only way to build a health care system that works for everyone is to ensure that our providers are provided the opportunity to grow, to fill knowledge gaps, and to address biases that they may not even be aware they hold,” said Senator Sarah McBride. “I’m proud to have supported the entire Momnibus package, but I’m particularly thrilled to have joined with Rep. Minor-Brown on HB 344 to empower more providers with the information and resources they need to alleviate patient fears and offer the best possible care to every patient no matter their background.”
House Bill 342 expands existing restrictions on the use of restraints on women who are giving birth or in labor to include pregnant women and those in the 13-week post-partum period.
House Bill 345 ensures pregnant women or women who have given birth within the past six weeks who are subject to the custody of the Department of Corrections at Level IV or V have access to midwifery and doula services by requiring the department to make reasonable accommodations for provision of available midwifery or doula services.
House Bill 343 requires the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to present a plan to the General Assembly by November 1 for coverage of doula services by Medicaid providers. The services will be provided by a trained doula designed to provide physical, emotional, and educational support to pregnant and birthing persons before, during, and after childbirth. This will include support and assistance during labor and childbirth, prenatal and postpartum support and education, breastfeeding assistance, and parenting education.
House Bill 234 requires the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months from the end of pregnancy through the state plan amendment option created by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.