Legislation seeks to improve availability of high-quality maternal care by building on successful pilot program 

November 20, 2019- Washington, D.C. – This week, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5) and Congressman Buddy Carter (GA-1) announced the Birth Access Benefiting Improved Essential Facility Services Act, or BABIES Act, a bill that would expand access to freestanding birth centers for Medicaid recipients.

Over half of U.S. counties have no hospital maternity unit, and maternal-child outcomes in the U.S. are among the worst of all developed nations. Freestanding, licensed birth centers can provide high quality care to women and families in low resource areas. Unfortunately, procedural obstacles disincentivize birth centers from accepting Medicaid beneficiaries, making it difficult for many women enrolled in Medicaid to access maternity care at these centers. The BABIES Act creates a demonstration program using a new payment model to provide women and infants access to the essential care they need.

“The BABIES Act will improve outcomes for women and families,” said Clark. “We have seen clear evidence that birth centers have positive outcomes for mothers and babies. By enabling innovation to guide the critical work that birth centers do every day, we can extend essential care to moms where they are.”

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that Georgia has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the United States and something must be done,” said Carter. “This legislation will work to address this by better utilizing birth centers. By better utilizing birth centers, we can help to deliver better health outcomes in a more cost-efficient manner while providing more maternal health options. I’m very glad to introduce this legislation today with Representative Clark after working with birth centers in Savannah and Macon, GA.”

"The BABIES Act will help to address maternal and infant health disparities in communities that now lack access to maternity care by promoting a sustainable model of reimbursement for birth centers. The birth center model of midwifery-led care has been shown through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns evaluation to improve outcomes and reduce disparities for mothers and infants", said Dr. Amy Johnson-Grass, ND, CPM, President of American Association of Birth Centers.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted an evaluation of three models of prenatal care for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries from 2013 to 2017 and found that freestanding birth centers resulted in lower rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, and C-section in addition to cost savings of $2,000 per mother-infant pair. The BABIES Act builds on this cost-effective foundation and provides a model for freestanding birth centers to improve maternal mortality and improve infant outcomes.

The BABIES Act is endorsed by American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM), AABC (American Association of Birth Centers), and March for MOMS.