Cephas, McClinton applaud VP Harris’ call to action to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity

HARRISBURG, Dec. 8 – State Reps. Morgan Cephas and Joanna McClinton, both D-Phila., applauded the maternal mortality and morbidity call to action issued by Vice President Kamala Harris this week, citing legislation that can be enacted in Pennsylvania to improve health outcomes and save lives. 

“The issue of maternal health and the devastatingly high rates of maternal mortality and maternal morbidity in Pennsylvania and across the country have been and continue to be a top priority of mine,” Cephas said. “I’m grateful that Vice President Harris has issued this call to action, elevating this issue in front of the entire country.” 

“Maternal health is at the core of family wellness,” House Democratic Leader McClinton said. “Despite our nation’s strengths, the fact that we have one of the highest maternal mortality rates is a stain on our country. 

“I applaud Vice President Harris’ actions to bring visibility to this issue that impacts so many women in our communities.” 

According to the call to action issued by Harris, the maternal mortality rates in the United States are among the highest in the developed world and are especially high among Black women and Native American women, regardless of income or education levels. As part of the call to action, $3 billion in Build Back Better funding will be invested in maternal health and states will be encouraged to extend Medicaid programs to 12 months postpartum, among other things.  

“I have authored several bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that I know would improve health outcomes, and I am hopeful that this call to action by Vice President Harris will bring more attention and awareness to the tragic reality of maternal mortality and allow these vital pieces of legislation to move more swiftly through the legislative process so they can be enacted into law,” Cephas said. “This is literally a life-or-death issue, and we owe it to the people of Pennsylvania, especially the children and families of parents who suffer and die needlessly, to do everything in our power to improve outcomes.” 

Among the bills in the General Assembly Cephas has introduced are: 

  • HB 1173, which would extend Medicaid coverage for pregnancy-related and postpartum Medical Assistance for up to an additional 10 months (current eligibility ends at 60 days postpartum). 
  • HB 1174, which would aid in data collection to better understand maternal health by adding “severe maternal morbidity” to the list of reportable events within the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 
  • HB 1175, which would extend Medicaid coverage to doula services while also creating a Doula Advisory Board. 
  • HB 1176, which would require all health-related boards within the Department of State to complete implicit bias training as part of continuing education requirements. 

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services said it was prioritizing extending Medical Assistance coverage to 12 months postpartum, a move that Cephas and other members of the Women’s Health Caucus commended. At that time, Cephas said tackling issues as complex as maternal mortality requires a strategy that addresses the issue from different angles. 

“With the action on the federal level this week, I am hopeful that we can continue to make strides with regard to maternal health,” Cephas said. “The cost of not acting on this issue is too dire, and what we can achieve if we are successful is invaluable – fewer parents will suffer and more parents will live to see their babies grow.” 

Pennsylvania is set to implement the postpartum Medicaid extension in April 2022.