Saying it is imperative that the state do much more to improve the dismal health outcomes of mothers and children, the Kentucky House Democratic Women’s Caucus will this week file the bulk of more than 30 bills that would provide much-needed relief to new mothers and babies alike. It is the third legislative session of the women’s group in which these bills are presented as part of a multifaceted package.
“It is beyond tragic that the number of deaths from pregnancy in this country has more than doubled in the past 30 years, and that the rate in Kentucky is among the worst in a country whose national average is at the lower end of industrialized countries. lies,” said State Representative Lisa Willner. of Louisville, who chairs the women’s group. “In our country, about 700 pregnant people die every year from pregnancy-related causes, of which a third die during pregnancy, another third during childbirth or the first week postpartum and the remaining third in the following year.”
“Our bills address all three in ways that provide those who are or have been pregnant and their children with the care they need and deserve.” Rep. Willner added. “We can’t afford to ignore the mental health implications of pregnancy-related risks and concerns, or that pregnant people and babies who are black are at much greater risk than their white counterparts.”
“I am doubly proud to support these bills, both as a legislator and as a pregnant person,” said Lexington State Representative Lindsey Burke. “These bills provide real-world solutions that can be implemented quickly and affordably, and they would do so much to improve outcomes for families across the country.”
“Given the significant advancements we’ve made in medicine and public health over the past several decades, the health-related issues surrounding pregnancy should be improving, and yet they haven’t for a very long time,” said State Representative Rachel. Roarx of Louisville. “I am proud to work with my fellow legislators to reverse this trend as much as possible, and I hope this collective effort can serve as an example for other states.”
More than 20 of the bills would expand health care coverage through Medicaid and private insurance or change tax policies. Those include eliminating sales tax on things like diapers, baby food, breastfeeding supplies, and feminine hygiene products; Require Medicaid to cover doulas and midwives during the birth process; hold health insurers accountable for medically required baby food; and by having the state and private health insurance companies expand coverage for prenatal care and contraceptives and include pregnancy as a qualifying event so that health care coverage for those who are expecting can begin long before delivery.
Several bills focus on postpartum care. Some would increase access to public and private health care for new mothers, including those who miscarry in the third trimester or lose a child; and another calls on all hospitals and birth centers to provide new mothers with information about maternal depression and how to access available resources.
Another proposal would require all public and private health insurance companies to cover all FDA-approved prescription drugs that treat postpartum conditions. A separate bill would let a child’s insurer reimburse the cost of screening for depression by parents or guardians during visits with children up to age five, and another would expand the state’s longstanding HANDS program to help new parents screen for maternal and postpartum depression.
Other bills would modernize workplace policies.
One would like the state and private companies to extend their sick leave policies to employees who experience a third-trimester miscarriage or the death of a child.
Companies with 50 or more employees, meanwhile, would also have to give 12 weeks of paid sick leave to new parents, an established benefit in many other states, and another law would allow all employees statewide to earn paid sick leave.
The caucus’ proposals would create a new legislative committee — the Infant Mortality Task Force, to further study the underlying causes in these cases — and establish the Kentucky Child Mental Health Services Access Program, so primary care physicians can quickly connect with professionals in be able to treat the mental illness or intellectual disability of their young patients.
Legislation has also been introduced to close substantial racial disparities in maternal and child care; declare March “Kentucky Maternal and Infant Mortality and Disparities Awareness Month”; and provide more assistance to prisoners who are pregnant or have recently given birth.
Two women who would benefit from the legislative package offered their support for the bills.
“Maternal and reproductive health legislation proposed by the House Democrats would enable tens of thousands of Kentuckians to access lifesaving, essential health care services and products,” said Elizabeth Gribbins of Louisville, who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome in high school. and whose treatment required hormonal contraception.
That’s why, she said, she supported the bill requiring health insurers to cover a 12-month supply of birth control. If it becomes law, it would “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and help people with medical conditions like mine have easy and cheap access to critical medication. I support this proposal, along with the other reproductive and maternal health bills, and you should too – for a better Kentucky.
Murray’s Jenni Hitt spoke in 2018 about the pain of losing a pregnancy.
“I was in emotional and physical pain,” she said, “and none of my doctors gave me support for postpartum depression or the pain of losing my pregnancy. They sent me on my way and didn’t look back. We need stronger support for miscarriage care in Kentucky, no layoff.
The bills included in the Kentucky House Democratic Women’s Caucus’ maternal and infant health package will now be considered by the General Assembly in its current legislative session, which ends next month.
Legislative Commission of Inquiry