This week, ACOG continued to lift concerns to Members of Congress and the Administration about the impact COVID-19 has on communities of color, and concerns that the pandemic will exacerbate the maternal mortality crisis without swift policy action. As Congress begins to shift focus to other priorities, ACOG is working to ensure your elected officials continue to understand the ongoing and evolving impact of the virus on your patients and the communities you serve.
A focus of the 2020 Congressional Leadership Conference was a policy that, if implemented in 2021, could result in cuts to maternity care reimbursement across payors. As part of our ongoing, full scale effort to stop these cuts, this week ACOG met with top Administration officials to urge them not to implement this harmful policy. ACOG argues that reducing payment rates will lead to widespread barriers to accessing obstetric care for pregnant patients, particularly those who are covered by Medicaid or living in rural communities. ACOG is concerned that this policy will stymie efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and is inconsistent with broader efforts by the Administration to prioritize preventive care and improve maternal health outcomes. Maternity care services must be valued equitably. While physician practices continue to suffer financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACOG is committed to advocating so that obstetrician-gynecologists don’t face additional financial barriers to caring for patients.
In addition, ACOG submitted written testimony to inform the House Ways & Means Committee hearing titled “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color.” Current data indicate disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infection, severe morbidity, and mortality in communities of color, particularly among Black, Latinx, and Native American people. ACOG is deeply concerned about the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color and urges immediate congressional action to mitigate these impacts. Consistent with ACOG’s Position Statement on Addressing Health Equity During the COVID-19 Pandemic, ACOG’s testimony centered around the critical need for investment in comprehensive data collection, mitigating COVID-19’s impact on the maternal mortality crisis, and the need to strengthen and expand safety net programs.
Finally, this week ACOG was invited to brief bipartisan staff from the Senate Finance Committee to inform their development of legislation to improve maternal health outcomes. ACOG’s remarks, delivered by Rachel Tetlow, ACOG’s Director of Federal Affairs, were framed in the context of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on maternal health. ACOG urged the Committee to swiftly extend continuous Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum, and include the bipartisan H.R. 4996, the Helping MOMS Act, in the next bill responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also urged the Committee to prioritize reducing racial inequities, and ensure pregnant patients have access to risk-appropriate care, particularly in rural areas. ACOG is viewed by Members of Congress across the political spectrum as the trusted voice on maternal health and our tireless advocacy toward enactment of bipartisan legislation will continue.