White House Report on Maternal Health Cites Columbia Mailman Research

July 20, 2022

In June, the White House released its Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. As the report states, “Our country’s maternal mortality rate is the highest of any developed nation in the world and more than double the rate of peer countries.” In response, the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to cutting rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, reducing the disparities in maternal health outcomes, and improving the overall experience during and after pregnancy for people across the country. 

Among the research the report cites are two studies by Jamie Daw, assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. These papers examined gaps and changes in health insurance coverage experienced by mothers before, during, and after pregnancy. Both appeared in the journal Health Affairs.

In the section of the White House report on increasing access to and coverage of comprehensive high-quality maternal health services, the text notes, “Health insurance coverage gaps occur both before and after pregnancy: 25 percent of women experience an insurance change from preconception to delivery, and 28 percent experience a change from delivery through 3-6 months postpartum.” The report cites a 2019 paper led by Daw.

The same section notes that “roughly 55 percent of women with Medicaid coverage at delivery experienced a gap in coverage in the following six months,” citing a second paper by Daw published in 2017. As the report notes, this “loss of coverage is dangerous, given that many deaths and complications occur more than 60 days following delivery.”

The Biden-Harris plan proposes to work to eliminate these coverage gaps. One key policy proposal is to encourage states to take advantage of the American Rescue Plan option to provide 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant people. The report also urges Congress to pass legislation that would make 12 months of postpartum coverage mandatory for all state Medicaid programs.

Says Daw: “As public health researchers, our goal is to inform the development of policies and programs that will improve health and health equity. I am thrilled to see the Biden-Harris administration propose concrete, evidence-based policy changes to address the structural barriers faced by pregnant people in accessing timely, high-quality health care. I look forward to continuing to study how the U.S. health care system can be better oriented to support the health of pregnant and postpartum people and to measure the real-world impact of these proposed policy changes on maternal health outcomes.”