BABIES Act Introduced in 117th Congress

Posted By: Kate Bauer AABC News Release,

The American Association of Birth Centers is pleased to announce the introduction of the BABIES Act in the 117th Congress. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation (H.R. 3337 / S. 1716) was introduced in the House by Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) with co-sponsors Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3), Rep. Lucille Roybal Allard (D-CA-40) and Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA-1). In the Senate it was introduced by Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

"As maternal mortality rates continue to rise in the U.S., we need to be innovative about tackling this crisis,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “We have seen clear evidence that birth centers and midwifery care have positive outcomes for mothers and babies, but these services are underfunded, and in some rural areas, nonexistent.”

Birth centers have promising results to both support the health of infants and mothers while also resulting in cost saving. From 2013 to 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns Initiative. This project funded three models of prenatal care for Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries and found that birth centers, a midwifery model of care, resulted in lower rates of preterm birth, lower rates of low birthweight, lower rates of C-section, and cost savings of $2,000 per mother-infant pair.

“We applaud the efforts of leaders in Congress in taking action to improve access to birth center care. Our goal is to help to reduce racial disparities with federally funded freestanding birth centers that will increase access to midwifery care in birth centers. High quality care is needed in communities with poor maternal and infant outcomes, particularly in areas with racial and ethnic disparities.” said Amy Johnson-Grass, ND, LN, LM, CPM, and AABC President.

The BABIES Act would build off the Strong Start Initiative by creating a demonstration payment program under Medicaid. The legislation provides guidance to develop a prospective payment system (PPS) that would reimburse birth centers for prenatal care, perinatal, and postpartum mother and infant care. By providing a model of cost coverage for freestanding birth centers, we can continue to use cost-effective, creative solutions to improve maternal mortality and infant outcomes.