Insights

What Happened, What You Missed: September 19-23

CDC: 80% of Pregnancy Deaths Are Preventable

More than four out of five pregnancy-related deaths could have been avoided, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Highlighting the role of health disparities, the report found non-Hispanic Black mothers were three times more likely to die than white mothers, and that 93% of deaths among American Indian and Alaska Native mothers were preventable.  The CDC also found that nearly 25% of deaths were due to mental health conditions, 14% due to hemorrhage and 13% due to heart problems. The remaining deaths were caused by cardiomyopathy, embolism, infection, and hypertension.

FDA Clears Millions of Moderna Booster Doses

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light for a vaccine packaging plant in Indiana to release millions of Moderna’s bivalent booster doses after initially withholding the doses from being released over concerns that the packaging plant was not sufficiently sterile.  Since the new bivalent booster doses were made available after Labor Day, state and local officials nationwide have reported shortages of Moderna doses, prompting many booster-seekers to turn to Pfizer instead.  Health officials now expect supply issues related to Moderna’s booster to resolve in about two weeks.  According to reports, administration officials have so far avoided publicly commenting on the decision to withhold millions of Moderna boosters over concerns that their comments could undermine vaccine confidence.

USPSTF Recommend All Adults Get Screened for Anxiety

On Tuesday, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a draft recommendation calling for all adults under the age of 65 to be screened for anxiety.  The panel’s recommendation comes amid a spike in new cases of anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to data from the CDC, the share of adults ages 18 to 44 who received mental health treatment jumped from 18% in 2019 to 23% in 2021.  The panel additionally noted that Black and Hispanic/Latino Americans are more likely to face barriers to receiving mental health care due to high treatment costs and lack of insurance coverage.   The USPSTF also looked at the benefits of screening for suicide risk in all adults but did not find enough evidence to justify a recommendation.

Senate Leaders Reach Deal on PDUFA Reauthorization

On Thursday afternoon, Senate leaders struck a deal to reauthorize the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) and ensure the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can pay staff in charge of reviewing prescription drugs, biologics, and medical devices.  According to the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Richard Burr (R-NC), his policy rider addressing the baby formula shortage was cut from the bill, making the reauthorization measure “practically clean.”  However, it remains unclear if House lawmakers have agreed to the deal.  The reauthorization bill is expected to be tied to a continuing resolution that Congress is now expected to take up next week.

ICYMI: Capitol Police Once Again Prevail over Lawmakers on the Gridiron

The Capitol Police defeated members of Congress at the Congressional Football Game on Wednesday night by a score of 19-8.  Except for a 2019 matchup, the Capitol Police have consistently defeated the lawmakers since the first game took place in 2004.   The matchup will notably be the last for the lawmakers’ co-captain Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who lost a primary race earlier in the summer after his district was combined with another.  The game generated over $400,000 for the Capitol Police Memorial Fund, which supports the families of officers who are severely injured or killed in the line of duty.

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Will Momentum on Maternal Health Legislation Continue?

The state of maternal health is quite bleak in the US, where women are more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes than their counterparts in other developed countries.  After years of advocacy, legislation was enacted that allows states to extend post-partum health care coverage.  Could this mean more legislative proposals on maternal health could be enacted soon?

Pregnancy Crisis

There are significant maternal health disparities in the US, as black and Native Americans women are about three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.  The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the nation’s maternal health crisis by negatively impacting social determinants of health, reducing access to care, and straining social support networks.

Medicaid Postpartum Coverage

Signed into law on March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act gives states the option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months.  Under this new coverage option, participating states must provide full Medicaid benefits both during pregnancy and the extended post-partum period.  However, questions remain about the potential impact of the new coverage option, which does not go into effect until April 1, 2022 and only lasts for five years.  For instance, it is not known how many states will elect the postpartum coverage option, particularly those that have expanded Medicaid coverage.  The impact of the law in non-expansion states remains uncertain, as well.

Status of State Efforts to Expand Postpartum Coverage Beyond 60 Days

Source: Health Affairs

Mommy Bills in the Hopper

Additional efforts to bolster maternal health are underway in Congress.  Key legislation introduced so far includes:

  • The Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S. 346/H.R. 959).  This bill would promote maternal vaccinations, encourage innovative payment models to support high-quality maternal care, and improve data collection to better understand the drivers of poor maternal health.

MOMMA’s Act (S. 916/H.R. 1897).  This legislation would expand Medicaid and CHIP benefits for pregnant women to include oral health services, give states the option to extend SNAP benefits to women for two years postpartum, and establish Centers of Excellence on cultural competency training for health care providers.

  • The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 4995).  This bill would require the Health Resources and Services Administration to establish programs aimed at improving maternal health care in rural areas, including physician training grant programs and grants for networks that can increase access and coordinate care for pregnant women.  The bill advanced in the House but failed to be enacted.

For his part, President Biden’s American Families Plan, while centered around childcare, education, and paid leave, will “invest in maternal health” according to a fact sheet.  The American Families Plan could ultimately provide a legislative vehicle, to enact maternal health proposals, much like the Medicaid postpartum coverage bill was attached to the American Rescue Plan.

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