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Legislators Consider The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act As The U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate Rises

Members of Congress continue to hear from advocates including medical professionals and families regarding the many women in the U.S. that are dying amid pregnancy. Roughly 800 women across the country die during or shortly after childbirth annually. Almost 60% of these fatalities are determined to have been preventable.

The health-focused subcommittee within the House Energy & Commerce Committee has heard from many witnesses and from those sponsoring the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act. This measure would implement maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) in states and increase funding to those where such groups already exist.

Lack of Coverage & Affordable Care

Approximately 14% of women in their childbearing years lack health insurance coverage. Medicaid covers roughly 50% of U.S. births; however, many state Medicaid programs discontinue this coverage within 60 days after delivery, while many mothers are still in the process of recovering. Gene Green, a congressional representative of Texas, explained that many states have refused to expand their Medicaid coverage. He believes that this lack of coverage along with the opioid epidemic is largely causing the increase in mortality rates.

H.R. 1318

The House Bill 1318 seeks to enhance state funding for pregnant women to better improve outcomes, particularly among those in the lower income segments. Some of the recent congressional findings include:

  • In addition to the U.S., seven other countries are also experiencing an increase in maternal mortality
  • The U.S. ranks #50 among the countries of the world
  • Between 2000 and 2014 the overall mortality rate increased by over about 26%
  • Two of the leading causes are related to blood pressure: hypertensive disease and preeclampsia
  • Other common medical causes include blood clots, sepsis, anemia, and drug use
  • The measure seeks to identify the populations who are at the greatest risk both during and following pregnancy

Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM)

AIM is a national safety program that promotes quality initiatives that relate to pregnancy. The program seeks to reverse the emerging negative mortality trends. Efforts are designed to have hospitals work with both state and national entities to improve maternal health. Other participants include medical providers and public health agencies that are often at the forefront of the problem.

Maryland Data

The rate of maternal mortality in Maryland has been approximately 26 deaths for every 100,000 births. In recent years, the state has had mortality rates that are slightly below the national averages. The goal established at the federal level is to reduce the number to 11 deaths for every 100,000 births. Mothers in Maryland who are black are almost three times more likely to die amid a pregnancy than whites. This disparity along racial lines also exists nationally.

Birth Complication & Injury Cases Challenges

Many birth-related claims of medical negligence involve failures to diagnose or failures to treat pregnancy complications. Birth injury cases tend to be among the more complex types to prove. Often the plaintiff and their legal team may struggle to counter the seasoned medical experts that may be employed by the defense. These cases may extend for several years and create a tremendous financial burden.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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