Massachusetts House passes Comprehensive Maternal Health Bill

BOSTON – State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) was proud to join his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass “An Act promoting access to midwifery care and out-of-hospital birth options,” a comprehensive maternal health bill which creates a state licensure pathway for midwives and lactation consultants, encourages the creation of more freestanding birth centers, and mandates that certain health care professionals perform, and that health insurers provide coverage for, postpartum depression screenings.

“As a father, I’ve witnessed firsthand the crucial role that maternal healthcare plays in the health and well-being of both the mother and child,” said Representative Haggerty. “By expanding access to midwifery services, supporting freestanding birth centers, covering postpartum depression care, and addressing racial or socioeconomic status disparities in maternal health care, we’re ensuring that all Massachusetts families have the care and support they need before, during and after childbirth. In passing this legislation, we’re sending a clear message that the health and well-being of mothers and infants is a priority in our Commonwealth regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.”

The legislation creates a state license that midwives must receive in order to practice midwifery, and requires certain insurance providers, such as MassHealth, to cover midwifery services including prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care. The bill creates the Board of Registration in Midwifery within the Department of Public Health (DPH) to license and provide oversight of licensed midwives. Licensed midwives would be required to coordinate emergency care if needed and would also be able to issue prescriptions for certain drugs, under regulations to be promulgated by the Board and DPH.

In addition, the bill encourages the creation of more freestanding birth centers, which operate independent from hospital systems, by requiring DPH to promulgate updated regulations governing the licensure of freestanding birth centers to ensure safe, equitable, and accessible birth options.

The legislation also requires that MassHealth cover noninvasive prenatal screenings to detect whether a pregnancy is at increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities for all pregnant patients regardless of age, baseline risk, or family history. To better support new mothers in their feeding journeys, the bill also authorizes the Board of Allied Health Professionals to license lactation consultants to ensure their services are eligible for reimbursement through the patient’s insurance.

Furthermore, the bill requires DPH to conduct a public awareness campaign about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and to develop and maintain a digital resource center that will be available to the public. It also requires that new mothers be offered a screening for postpartum depression, and that those services be covered by health insurance plans.

To ensure ongoing improvements, the legislation establishes a nine-member task force to study the current availability of, and access to, maternal health services and care, as well as essential service closures of inpatient maternity units and acute-level birthing centers. The task force will identify methods of increasing financial investment in, and patient access to, maternal health care in the Commonwealth.

Having passed the House of Representatives 153-0, the bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

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