Testimony on pregnancy-related health bills heard in Senate Finance Committee today
The Maryland Senate Finance Committee heard testimony today on two bills related to services and care provided during and immediately after pregnancy.
Senate Bill 891 would require the Maryland Department of Health to develop a list of perinatal hospice programs and publish it on its website. The idea is make information about these programs more available to both patients and providers. Perinatal hospice programs work with families who learn their baby has a fatal medical condition while in utero. The hospice provides information and choices for families, including the option to continue the pregnancy as long as possible rather than terminate it.
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Senator Mary Beth Carozza, sponsor of the bill, told the committee there are approximately 300 perinatal hospital services in the U.S. and seven states have passed similar legislation so far.
“There has been a 120% increase of infant mortality in Somerset County since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be a direct reflection of inadequate access to health care and prenatal care. Families often lack knowledge of the resources available to them. This bill allows families to simply access perinatal hospice resources.”
Mary Peroutka, a registered nurse and perinatal bereavement coordinator, testified that perinatal hospice brings the best of hospice and perinatal care together.
“Perinatal hospice is not about death, it is about life and cherishing each moment you have. It aims to guide and walk with families through a very difficult time.”
Meg Aeschliman received that difficult diagnosis in 2010 and she and it left she and her husband feeling alone. She wishes her provider would have been aware of this service. Ultimately, she found information about perinatal hospice on her own. Because of that, she allowed her pregnancy to continue until it ended naturally.
“I had an instinctive need to let my child live as long as possible. Mary Grace was born. We held her. She was baptized. She met her grandparents. If my doctor would have suggested perinatal hospice resources from the beginning it would have been much easier.”
The committee also heard testimony on SB 923, which would extend the postpartum care for women to one year post-delivery. Senator Mary Washington said many health issues arise in women in the year after pregnancy, including mental health problems.
“A majority of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable and they often stem from a lack of coverage from changes in coverage after birth than can disrupt their care. They are getting good coverage through the pregnancy and then for a couple of months. This would extend the postpartum coverage in Medicaid from a few months to a full year.”
The bill would increase Medicaid expenditures by $7.2 million in FY 2022 and $14.4 million annually thereafter.
Washington points out that while there is cost, it is likely to save money as extended care results in better health outcomes for both mother and baby.
Pam Kasemeyer, managing partner of Schwartz, Metz & Wise, spoke on behalf of several stakeholders, including MedChi, in support of the legislation.
“The bill is focused on better outcomes for the population that is eligible for Medicaid. Coverage for pregnancy has all kinds of positive outcomes. There are so many health issues that arise one year postpartum.”
In particular, there are maternal behavioral health issues postpartum that have implications for both the mother and the infant, she said.