CMS Announces Key Actions to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

CMS proposes a “Birthing-Friendly” designation and announces 11 new states and the District of Columbia looking to extend postpartum Medicaid & CHIP coverage.


Today, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Call to Action to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing more details about the proposed “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation intended to drive improvements in maternal health outcomes. The new designation would assist consumers in choosing hospitals that have demonstrated a commitment to maternal health and the delivery of high-quality maternity care. Additional information about the initial requirements for the designation will be released in the coming days as a part of the Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule.


“Everyone deserves access to quality health care, especially as they start a family,” said Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “At HHS, we are proposing the ‘Birthing-Friendly’ hospital designation and working with states to provide a full year of postpartum care to ensure all parents have the best care they need – before, during, and after a pregnancy. We will continue to deliver on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to reduce racial disparities, including those we see in maternal health outcomes.”


Today’s announcement comes as Vice President Kamala Harris hosts the first-ever meeting on maternal health with Cabinet Secretaries and agency leaders, which is taking place during the fifth annual Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17, 2022).


“Improving maternal health outcomes—particularly among underserved communities—is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. To advance health equity, we must integrate it into our programs, and that’s why we are seeking to measure hospital maternity care quality,” said Administrator Brooks-LaSure. “In addition, the American Rescue Plan gives states an easier pathway to extend coverage to 12 months after a pregnancy, and I encourage all states to take this step to support parents and children during the postpartum period.”


Louisiana, Virginia, New Jersey, and Illinois have started offering Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage for 12 months after pregnancy. CMS is also working with another 11 states and the District of Columbia to extend postpartum coverage for 12 months after pregnancy, including: California, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. As a result of these efforts, as many as 720,000 people across the United States could be guaranteed Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months after pregnancy thanks to the American Rescue Plan. Medicaid covers 42 percent of all births in the nation, and this new option for states to extend Medicaid and CHIP coverage marks the Biden-Harris Administration’s latest effort to address the nation’s crisis in pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity by opening the door to greater postpartum care continuity for hundreds of thousands of people.


Initially, the publicly reported maternity care quality hospital (“Birthing-Friendly”) designation would be based on a hospital’s attestation to the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) Program’s Maternal Morbidity Structural Measure, which CMS sees as a first step in capturing hospitals’ commitments to the quality and safety of maternity care they furnish. The reporting period began in October 2021, and data will be submitted by hospitals for the first time in May 2022. CMS will post the Maternal Morbidity Structural Measure data for October to December 2021 in fall 2022, and post initial results for the hospital designation beginning in fall 2023.


The agency intends to expand the criteria for which this designation would be awarded in the future. The designation, which would appear on a CMS website, would ultimately assist consumers in choosing hospitals that have demonstrated a commitment to maternal health through their participation in quality improvement collaboratives and implementation of best practices that advance health care quality, safety, and equity for pregnant and postpartum parents.