Bipartisan measure introduced to combat Kentucky’s high maternal mortality rate

Published 3:40 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers endorsed a bill Wednesday aimed at combatting a tragic health statistic by expanding access to insurance coverage for expectant mothers.

The goal is to reduce the Bluegrass State’s maternal mortality rate, which ranks as the second-highest nationally, said Republican Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Maternal mortality is defined as a death during pregnancy or up to a year afterward. Common causes include excessive bleeding, infection, heart disease, suicide and drug overdose.

The bill has affectionately been dubbed the “Momnibus Bill” by supporters due to its many provisions aimed at supporting mothers through pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period.

A central part of the measure would ensure that pregnancy is considered a qualifying life event for health insurance coverage. Some insurance policies cover deliveries but not the prenatal and postnatal care that’s crucial for mothers and their infants, Moser has said.

“This will address any prenatal health issues that the mom is facing and improve outcomes during the pregnancy, during delivery and of course in the postpartum period,” Moser said at a news conference.

Moser introduced the sweeping legislation on Wednesday, and it drew support from women lawmakers in both parties who stood at Moser’s side during the kickoff event for the measure.

“Most of us are parents and most of us recognize the need for strengthening our families, strengthening our health care overall and, of course, giving our newest citizens, our newborns, the best start in life that we can,” Moser said. “So I would say it’s been very well received.”

The bill’s appeal was evident by the bipartisan gathering of lawmakers who represented a spectrum of political views, Democratic Rep. Sarah Stalker said. It reflected the widespread commitment to combat the state’s “abysmal maternal health outcomes,” she said. And defining pregnancy as a qualifying life event for health insurance coverage is critical to reducing those death rates, she said.

“We know that ensuring early access to prenatal care is the best upstream method approach to bringing our maternal mortality rates down,” Stalker said.