U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Press Release

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Lisa Murkowski’s Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Access to Maternity Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Passes Senate

The legislation will help ensure women have better access to timely, high quality maternity care by identifying provider shortage areas in rural and underserved communities

By - Dec 7th, 2018 11:44 am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are praising the Senate passage of their bipartisan Improving Access to Maternity Care Act that will help reduce maternity care shortages by identifying areas lacking maternal health professionals to help incentivize providers to practice in these underserved, often rural areas. The legislation has already passed the House and now heads to the President to be signed into law.

“Too many communities around Wisconsin are still facing a shortage of qualified, maternity care professionals and services. I’ve heard from other expecting mothers across the state who can’t find a maternity care provider in their community and are forced to drive over an hour for their appointments – often putting their lives and their babies’ lives at risk,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will identify shortages to better target resources so providers can deliver the care that expecting mothers in Wisconsin so desperately need – no matter where they live. I’m proud to have led this bipartisan effort with Senator Murkowski to ensure that healthier pregnancies lead to healthier babies, and I’m looking forward to the President signing this bill into law.”

“Picture this: you’re a woman in rural Alaska facing a high-risk pregnancy. To help ensure the safety of your baby, you must fly hundreds of miles away for care— adding stress to an already overwhelming situation. Because of the cost of transportation and housing, your family and loved ones aren’t able to be with you, so you spend the remaining weeks of your pregnancy and your delivery alone,” said Senator Murkowski. “This is a sad but true reality for many parts of Alaska, which lack any form of access to maternity care– services that some parts of the U.S., perhaps, take for granted. I am proud that my Senate colleagues supported our legislation to improve access to these types of services which will increase overall safety, reduce rates of pregnancy-related deaths, and lower healthcare costs, long-term.”

The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act directs the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to identify 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 about 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.

HRSA already collects data on shortages of primary care, dental care and mental health care providers, and this reform will require HRSA to start collecting data on shortages of maternity care providers as well, to help better target resources where they are needed most.  By identifying maternity care needs within existing shortage areas, the United States can begin to fill the gap in maternity care access. This legislation 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), the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the March of Dimes, and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).

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

Text of the legislation is available here.

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