Congress Must Act Now: Pass COVID-19 Legislation That Protects Women's Health Care
The time to act is now. Obstetrician-gynecologists continue to serve patients on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and rapid-response diagnostic testing remains inadequate. Our Nation’s maternal mortality crisis risks exacerbation, with women of color most impacted. Continuing financial strains propel the future viability of private practice into uncertainty. Congress must act now to pass additional legislation to address the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. COVID-19 legislation must prioritize policies that respond to the unique health care needs of women and support obstetrician-gynecologists so that they may continue providing essential care to patients during and beyond this public health crisis.
Provide Direct Financial Support for Physicians
Obstetrician-gynecologists have been uniquely affected by this public health emergency. They continued to deliver care to pregnant patients while complying with directives to postpone non-urgent visits, preventive care evaluations, and elective procedures for other patients. Many have struggled to keep their practices afloat and have been forced to furlough staff, forego their own salary, and even temporarily close their practices, despite the financial relief provided by Congress to date. Physicians and physician practices need continued financial support to survive this public health emergency. The future of this country’s health care infrastructure depends on preserving the viability of private practices. It is critical that Congress provide ongoing direct financial support for physician practices to deliver care to patients for the duration of this pandemic and beyond. We urge Congress to authorize direct financial support in any future COVID-19 relief legislation, including grants, interest-free loans, and other mechanisms, such as a 9/11-type COVID-19 fund, for physician practices of all sizes.
Support H.R. 7059, the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act
During this unprecedented pandemic, physicians and other health care professionals have been putting themselves at risk every day while facing shortages of medical supplies, safety equipment, and diagnostic testing, and making critical medical decisions based on changing directives and guidance. Amid this uncertainty, obstetrician-gynecologists continue to answer the call every day to serve their communities and care for their patients. The Coronavirus Provider Protection Act would provide limited and targeted liability protections to health professionals and facilities for care provided in good faith during the public health emergency. Given the enormity of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, and its impact on all physicians currently practicing medicine we urge Congress to include H.R. 7059 in the next COVID-19 relief legislation.
Support H.R. 4995, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act & H.R. 4996, the Helping MOMS Act
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is further exposing inequities faced by women of color and may exacerbate the country's maternal mortality crisis. Black women experience maternal mortality at three times the rate of White women. Further, the public health crisis has underscored the importance of the Medicaid program, which already plays a critical role in maternity care, covering 43 percent of births nationwide. Congress must invest in evidence-based policies that will improve maternal health outcomes and help eliminate racial inequities in maternal health. We urge Congress to include H.R. 4995 and H.R. 4996 in the next COVID-19 relief legislation to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on pregnant and postpartum women, especially on women of color, and help eliminate preventable maternal deaths.
H.R. 4995 would help improve maternal health outcomes by:
- Supporting training programs to address and prevent implicit bias and racism in the provision of health care services;
- Authorizing the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health program to facilitate the adoption of evidence-based maternal safety best practices;
- Supporting perinatal quality collaboratives tasked with translating recommendations from maternal mortality review committees into policy and practice changes; and
- Improving access to obstetric care in rural areas.
H.R. 4996 would help close the critical postpartum gap in coverage for new mothers who rely on Medicaid by:
- Supporting states in extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months after delivery.
Provide Funding for NICHD
Congress must invest in research to better understand how pregnant patients and pregnancy outcomes are impacted by COVID-19, and encourage safe inclusion of pregnant and lactating women, including women of color, in trials for vaccines and therapeutics. Thus far, Congress has not allocated funds specifically for this purpose. We urge Congress to support funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, for research specific to COVID-19 and pregnancy.
i. Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths — United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:762–765.
ii. Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. Medicaid’s Role in Financing Maternity Care. January 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.macpac.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Medicaid%E2%80%99s-Role-in-Financing-Maternity-Care.pdf.