Dive Brief:

  • The CMS on Tuesday released a maternal health action plan aimed at improving outcomes and reducing disparities during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Among its goals is protecting patients’ access to emergency care across states, including abortion care when it is the necessary stabilizing treatment, the CMS said.
  • The agency also approved an extension of postpartum coverage in Connecticut, Kansas and Massachusetts through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program that adds up to 19,000 people a year who will have access to care for a full year after pregnancy across the three states.
  • CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure encouraged healthcare providers, insurance companies and state officials to consider commitments the private sector can make to improve maternal health outcomes.

Dive Insight:

The CMS said that in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is focused on ensuring access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services, including IUDs, emergency and other forms of contraception and abortion care within the agency’s legal authority in cases of rape, incest or where the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Earlier this month, the HHS issued guidance clarifying that doctors nationwide are required to provide lifesaving abortions in emergency situations under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. Texas has challenged the guidance in court.

The CMS’ plan to improve maternity care access and quality will include technical assistance for states to extend postpartum coverage, policies to support a diverse provider workforce and other equity-focused initiatives, the agency said.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 made possible an opportunity for states to provide continuous Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a full year after pregnancy, up from 60 days prior to the ARP. CMS has already approved 19 proposals to extend coverage, and nine additional states have submitted proposals for approval.

The latest coverage extensions add up to 4,000 people annually in Connecticut, 7,000 in Kansas and 8,000 in Massachusetts. If all states adopted the option, as many as 720,000 people a year across the U.S. could be guaranteed Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months after pregnancy, the agency said.

Another key feature of the maternal health strategy is a proposed “birthing-friendly” hospital designation, which the CMS outlined in the 2023 Inpatient and Long-term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System proposed rule. The designation would be displayed on a CMS website to provide information on hospitals that have demonstrated a commitment to implementing best practices that advance quality, safety and equity for pregnant and postpartum patients.

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