Shapiro administration announces expanded access to doulas through Medicaid change, highlights budget investment to improve maternal health

Shapiro administration announces expanded access to doulas through Medicaid change, highlights budget investment to improve maternal health
Shapiro administration announces expanded access to doulas through Medicaid change, highlights budget investment to improve maternal health

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Lancaster, PennsylvaniaDepartment of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkush and Department of Health (DOH) Acting Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen today visited R Patients Waiting to discuss the Shapiro administration’s recent work to address maternal health disparities through expanded Medicaid access to doulas. Secretary Arkush and Acting Secretary Boden also emphasized the importance of doulas as part of care teams for historically underserved populations and highlighted investments in To Governor Josh Shapiro Budget 2024-25 that responds to the national trend of increasing pregnancy-related deaths.

Pennsylvania’s recent Medicaid expansion creates a pathway for doulas to become certified providers, increasing women’s access to doulas as part of their care teams and helping to improve birth outcomes in Pennsylvania.

«Pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period are exciting but often stressful times for new parents, and easing barriers to the incredible physical, emotional and educational support that doulas provide can improve outcomes for both mothers and babies,» said Secretary Arkush. «By increasing access to birth doulas for Medicaid recipients, we recognize the important contribution doulas make across the continuum of prenatal, birth, and postpartum care and take another significant step toward improving health outcomes for mothers, babies, and communities in more broad plan. »

To help address maternal health disparities in access to quality health care for mothers, particularly black and Latina Pennsylvania women who may experience greater barriers to care and less representation in care, the Shapiro administration recently expanded access to doulas for Medicaid recipients. Doula services have been found to facilitate the pregnancy and birth process and improve birth outcomes for both mother and child. This recent change now allows certified doulas to enroll as Medicaid providers and allows Medicaid managed care organizations to enter into network agreements with them, allowing them to bill directly for services provided during pregnancy and postpartum.

To be recognized by Medicaid, doulas must be certified by the Pennsylvania Board of Certification. DHS strongly encourages all doulas in the Commonwealth to complete their certification so that they can officially participate in Medicaid and help reduce barriers to caregiving. Medicaid recipients interested in a doula as part of their care team. The PA Doula Commission is currently offering a financial scholarship toward the cost of the Certified Perinatal Doula application fee.

In the United States, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths has been rising in recent years. In Pennsylvania, there are 82 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births. Black women are twice as likely to die during or in the first year after pregnancy as white women. A doula’s support during labor and after birth results in a reduced need for clinical procedures during labor and delivery, fewer birth complications and more satisfying experiences during labor and after birth.

In addition to increasing access to doulas, the Shapiro administration actively combats maternal health issues by offering an additional $2.7 million in the proposed budget for 2024-25 to address and prevent maternal mortality.

“The Shapiro-Davis administration is committed to addressing maternal health issues across the Commonwealth. One evidence-based strategy is to increase access to doula support,” said Acting Minister of Health Dr. Debra Bogen. “As a pediatrician, I worked hand-in-hand with expectant and new or growing families. I have seen first hand the positive impact of doulas before, during and after birth. Doulas get to know families well, identify their strengths and needs, and provide personalized care to support positive outcomes for mothers, babies and families.”

«Doulas are trained professionals who help people cope with pregnancy and childbirth,» said Sharee Livingston, DO, OB/GYN, UPMC Magee-Womens. «The women who need a doula the most often can’t afford one. At UPMC, we applaud and welcome the Commonwealth’s decision to expand access to doulas through this Medicaid change. Our Doula Diversification Initiative in Lancaster has provided more than 300 women with fully subsidized doula services and trained 38 people of color to become doulas since 2020. With this new change, we can do much more for women in Lancaster and central Pennsylvania.

More information about DHS maternal and child health programs available in Pennsylvania can be found online here.

To learn more and apply for Medicaid and other assistance programs in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/compass.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brandon Qualina – ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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