Capito Introduces Legislation to Improve Access to Rural Health Care for New, Expecting Moms
Bill would provide training for medical professionals, build upon new, existing innovations to end rural disparities in maternal health
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) this week joined with Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) to introduce the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act, bipartisan legislation to help ensure that new and expecting mothers living in rural communities have access to the health care they need.
“Unfortunately, it has become clear that new and expecting mothers living in rural and remote areas in West Virginia and across the country are lacking access to important health care services,” Senator Capito said. “My colleagues and I realize the importance of addressing this issue, which is why we have introduced this legislation that will strengthen our efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of these mothers and their children. I’m proud to support this bill and will continue my efforts to address maternal mortality and its causes.”
“New and expecting moms should be able to access quality health care no matter where they live. But right now too many women in rural areas don’t have a nearby hospital with birthing services,” Senator Smith said. “Some people are driving hours—even in dangerous conditions like Minnesota blizzards—just to get to a hospital. We should support moms during this critical time in their lives by fixing this problem.”
“There continues to be barriers in understanding the problems associated with high rates of maternal mortality in rural Alaska. Studies have shown babies of mothers who have to travel more than an hour to give birth are more likely to require intensive care or die in the first year of their life. This is a startling statistic for a state like Alaska where more than 80 percent of our communities are not connected by the road system,” Senator Murkowski said. “As one of the most developed nations in the world, these rates are unacceptable. Continuing on my previous efforts to address maternal mortality, I’m proud to help lead this comprehensive bill which aims to improve data collection, increase funding for grants, expand telehealth resources, and broaden training opportunities for healthcare professionals.”
“As I’ve traveled around Alabama to hear directly from women and health care providers about how we can improve maternal health outcomes in the state, they have consistently raised concerns about the shortages of doctors and hospitals in rural areas. This legislation provides real solutions to expanding care through telehealth grants and other programs to increase the number of health care providers in rural areas, and takes important steps to address our unacceptable rate of maternal mortality in this country,” Senator Jones said.
The Rural MOMS Act would:
- Improve rural maternal and obstetric care data by directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to coordinate efforts with respect to maternal mortality and morbidity, report on women’s health conditions according to sociocultural and geographic contexts, and emphasize research on pregnancy-related deaths.
- Award new rural obstetric network grants to establish regional innovation networks to improve maternal mortality and morbidity, as well as birth outcomes.
- Expand existing federal telehealth grant programs to include birth and postpartum services as part of telehealth networks and allow federal funding to be used for ultrasound machines, fetal monitoring equipment, and other pregnancy-related technology.
- Establish a new rural maternal and obstetric care training demonstration to support training for family medicine physicians, obstetricians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, doulas, and other professionals to provide maternal care services in rural community-based settings.
- Report on maternal care in rural areas to identify the locations of gaps in maternity care, disparities in maternal health in rural areas by race and ethnicity, recommendations to standardize data collection on maternal mortality and morbidity, and activities to improve maternal care in rural areas.
The Rural MOMS Act is endorsed by Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs; Every Mother Counts; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; National Birth Equity Collaborative; March of Dimes; Nurse-Family Partnership; and the National Rural Health Association.
A summary of the bill is available here.
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