02:40 - Source: CNN
Harris defends support for Medicare for All
CNN —  

Sen. Kamala Harris is reintroducing her 2018 bill to tackle racial disparities in maternal health, and this time it’s coming with added pressure from a House bill that mirrors her Senate legislation.

The California Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate will introduce companion measures in both chambers Wednesday with Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina, aimed at tackling the disparities by investing $150 million in programs that identify high-risk pregnancies and establish implicit-bias training throughout the medical profession and medical schools. The funding establishes, and then maintains, the training aimed at attacking stereotypes. Harris’ office says the measure “will improve care for black women by reducing bias in judgment or behavior.”

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” Harris said in a statement.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published earlier this month, using data from 2011 to 2015, found that black women had the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths. The CDC data found that while the ratio of such deaths for white women is 13 per 100,000 live births, it jumps to 42.8 for black women.

“We cannot address the black maternal health crisis facing this country until we address racial disparities in health care,” said Adams, founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “The Maternal CARE Act will confront the persistent biases in our health system to ensure black women have equal access to the quality pre- and post-natal care they deserve.”

Sixteen senators are cosponsoring Harris’ bill, including fellow 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat; Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat; Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent; and Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Harris first introduced her Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act in 2018, but it stalled in committee. Given that Republicans still hold the majority in the Senate, the fate of this year’s Senate bill seems unlikely to change.

But by introducing the bills both in the House and Senate they aim to move the needle on the legislation, amid increased discussion about the issue among health care providers and presidential hopefuls.

Warren has highlighted the issue of racial bias in maternal care, writing in an April 30 editorial for Essence magazine that she endorses expanding changes made under the Affordable Care Act. Warren says setting one price for an entire episode of care – so-called bundled payments – and financially rewarding providers with better outcomes would narrow the racial inequities.

Booker, with cosponsors Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – a New York Democrat who’s also running for president – introduced Senate legislation in 2018 called the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services Act (MOMMIES). His bill focused on extending postpartum coverage in Medicaid services.

After his MOMMIES Act failed to move to the Senate floor for a vote, Booker reintroduced it earlier this month with cosponsors Gillibrand, Harris and Warren. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced a companion bill to Booker’s legislation on the same day in the House.