Illinois perinatal health care bill gaining momentum

A bill that would provide perinatal doula visits to Illinoisans that receive medical assistance is gaining momentum. Rep. Deb Conroy, a Democrat who represents parts of DuPage county in northeast Illinois, joined as a co-sponsor of the bill on Tuesday.

House Bill 354 was filed by Rep. LaToya Greenwood, a southwestern Illinois Democrat, on Jan. 28. It was referred to the House Rules Committee. In the weeks since the bill was filed Rep. Mary Flowers, Rep. Anna Moeller, Rep. Robyn Gabel and Rep. Camille Lilly all were added as chief co-Sponsors. All co-sponsors of the bill are women from the Democratic party.

 

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The bill would require perinatal doula services in the state to be covered by medical assistance programs like Medicaid. The services include regular visits before birth, support during labor and the delivery of the baby and some postpartum services.

An analysis of multiple studies by the Center for American Progress finds that the availability of doula and midwives can significantly increase the likelihood for positive birth outcomes. After birth, access to a doula can lead to higher breastfeeding rates and a lower likelihood of postpartum depression. They can especially be a key for black mothers to prevent birth and infant mortality.

In Illinois, black women are six times more likely than the state average to die during childbirth. A 2020 review by state health officials found that 72% of all deaths due to childbirth could have been prevented with proper professional care.

The bill comes as a part of a major health equity push in the state. Illinois has a medical task force dedicated to closing the racial birth mortality gap. At the beginning of the month, they made recommendations to the state legislature that included support of Medicaid funding going to prenatal care.

Representative Lilly also filed an omnibus health equity bill in January, with the goal of closing racial gaps in health care outcomes across the state. Provisions in the bill included the prevention of hospital closures for three years in order to keep medical services like maternity care in black communities.