Kamala Harris issues call to action on maternal health, touts social welfare bill

Kamala Harris issues call to action on maternal health, touts social welfare bill

Vice President Kamala Harris made a “call to action” in support of maternal health Tuesday that urges states to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms to a full year, up from two months.

She also promoted the $3 billion investment in maternal health that would flow from the administration’s multitrillion-dollar social welfare bill — if it makes it through Congress — and the creation of a “birthing-friendly” designation for hospitals that join a program aimed at improving patient safety.

“America’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black women and Native American women, regardless of their income or education levels,” a fact sheet from Ms. Harris’ office said. “On behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration, Vice President Harris is issuing a nationwide call to action to both the public and private sectors to help improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States.”

The fact sheet said the “Build Back Better” legislation the Biden administration is pushing would require states to extend postpartum coverage under Medicaid — the federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans — to 12 months instead of the 60 days, as required now. In the meantime, states have the option to join Virginia, New Jersey and Illinois in extending benefits now through a federal pathway established by the American Rescue Plan earlier this year.

The push to improve outcomes for moms comes as the evenly divided Senate mulls a rewrite of President Biden’s massive social welfare bill, which made it through the House in November. It also comes as Ms. Harris tries to improve her approval ratings, and press coverage after the resignations of four key aides in her office, including a top adviser, sparked questions about her political future after a history-making election earlier this year.

The vice president’s office said Ms. Harris has a long track record of focusing on maternal health, especially for Black mothers.

“This maternal health work by Vice President Harris and other congressional leaders is now a key component of the Build Back Better Act, which will expand access to maternal care and make unprecedented new investments to drive down mortality and morbidity,” the fact sheet said. “President Biden and Vice President Harris call on the Senate to swiftly pass Build Back Better, and make these reforms a reality for America’s families.”