Black women are roughly three times more likely than white women to suffer a pregnancy-related death; a disparity that Gov. Ralph Northam said he wants to eliminate by 2025.
On Monday, Virginia’s Medicaid agency, the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), outlined its strategy to do just that.
The agency will use new technology to ensure qualifying low-income women don’t experience a gap in health insurance coverage and work with the Department of Social Services to streamline enrollment, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.
It will also launch an outreach campaign in the fall to reach pregnant women and connect those in need with substance abuse resources.
The new strategies also aim to curb tobacco use among pregnant women, develop data-sharing programs between agencies and managed care organizations, and enhance reporting on performance measures, according to the Times-Dispatch.
“Finally, we need to listen to the most important voice, the voice of our consumers,” DMAS Director Jennifer Lee said, highlighting the need to engage with community members, advocates and stakeholders.
Lee said the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which has increased coverage for women, will also help improve maternal healthcare and reduce racial differences in pregnancy-related deaths. Since four Senate Republicans joined 19 Democrats to pass Medicaid expansion in 2018, more than 290,000 Virginians have enrolled in the government healthcare program. Sixty percent of the new enrollees are women.
As DMAS implements its strategies, a state-run Maternal Mortality Review Team will continue to study the issue and prepare a report on its findings that it plans to release later this year.