Congress May Send Money to States to Lower Maternal Mortality Rates

By: - March 6, 2017 12:00 am

Congress is considering giving money to states to investigate every pregnancy-related maternal death in hopes of reducing the United States’ high rate.

© The Associated Press

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would provide $7 million a year to help states investigate the relatively high percentage of American women who die as a result of pregnancy.

The U.S. ranks 47th in the world in limiting maternal mortality. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, for every 100,000 live births in the United States in 2015, more than 26 women died of pregnancy-related causes, such as hemorrhage, preeclampsia and sepsis. By contrast, six die in Japan, seven in Canada and 19 in Russia.

Studies suggest that one in three maternal deaths are preventable.

The bill, introduced by Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington with Democratic and GOP co-sponsors, includes $35 million over five years to fund state panels that would investigate every maternal death. The information would be shared with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the goal of identifying patterns to help prevent unnecessary deaths.

About half the states already have such maternal review panels. They usually include pathologists or coroners, law enforcement officials, and sometimes prosecutors and social workers.

Last year, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, a public health advocacy group, and the CDC launched a campaign to encourage all states to form maternal mortality panels. Health officials argued that the information provided on death certificates seldom provides medical investigators with enough information.

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Michael Ollove

Michael Ollove covers health care for Stateline. Ollove worked for many years at The Baltimore Sun, as an enterprise reporter and an editor.