U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Press Release

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Maternal Care Access in Underserved Areas

Bill ensures women have access to timely, high quality maternity care by identifying provider shortage areas in rural and underserved communities

By - Mar 3rd, 2015 02:45 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today introduced the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act, which aims to reduce maternity care shortages by identifying areas lacking maternal health professionals to help incentivize providers to practice in these underserved and often rural areas. Babies born to mothers who received no prenatal care are three times more likely to be low birth weight, and are five times more likely to die than babies whose mothers received care. According to recent estimates from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), approximately 26 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties do not have any ob-gyns, and there are only 556 ob-gyn physicians serving a population of 2,340,007 women in Wisconsin.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we’ve seen historic gains when it comes to providing maternity care coverage for women and families across America,” said Senator Baldwin. “Unfortunately, rural and underserved communities are still facing a shortage of qualified, maternity care professionals and services. The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act will identify areas of shortage and inadequate access to help target resources so providers can deliver the type of care that communities in Wisconsin and across our country so desperately need. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to ensure that healthier pregnancies lead to healthier babies.”

“Midwives are hopeful that Congress will act on this important legislation for women that Senator Tammy Baldwin has helped introduce today. I appreciate her commitment to serving the needs of women in the State of Wisconsin,” said Kate Harrod, PhD, CNM, FACNM at Aurora Health Care in Elkhorn, Wisconsin; faculty member in the nurse-midwifery program at Marquette University. “I believe this bill can be the foundation for addressing women’s underserved maternity care needs in rural and urban areas of Wisconsin and the United States.”

“In Illinois, there is only one OB-GYN for every 3,660 women throughout the state, and many of our obstetric hospitals are understaffed,” said Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who joined Senator Baldwin in introducing the bill. “Though 63 new ob-gyns are trained annually in Illinois, the number of retiring providers is just as high. This bipartisan legislation incentivizes providers to care for mothers and babies in areas where the care is most needed.”

The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act helps address these workforce challenges by directing the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to identify and designate maternity care shortage areas that may be used by the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The NHSC is critical to filling workforce shortages in underserved areas, with over 9,200 Corps clinicians delivering services to 9.7 million people across the US. Currently ob-gyns are recognized under the primary care shortage designation, which fails to adequately address shortages in maternity care. By creating a maternity care shortage area designation, the United States can begin to fill this gap. This new designation is critical to facilitating a better understanding of where the serious maternity care shortages are located and to subsequently direct health care providers to those communities.

The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act is endorsed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).

Learn more about the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act here.

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