Governor Lamont Proposes Legislation Expanding Access To High-Quality Maternal Health Services
Proposal Allows Free-Standing Birth Centers To Operate in Connecticut as an Alternative To Traditional Hospitals
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont is urging the Connecticut General Assembly to approve legislation he proposed this session that seeks to increase access to maternal health services, particularly with a goal of filling both geographic and financial gaps that prevent patients from receiving high-quality birthing care. The governor said he specifically proposed this legislation in response to several pending requests submitted by hospitals to close their labor and delivery facilities.
Overall, pregnancy-associated deaths have consistently increased from 2018 to 2020 among all races and age groups. The situation is even more dire among Black populations, which consistently sees higher rates of maternal mortality at national and state levels. Between 2015 and 2017, persons of color made up 44.9% of those giving birth and 63.6% of pregnancy-related deaths. This can be attributed to lack of equitable access to health care resources, including providers.
“Like many states across the nation, recent trends with health providers are creating gaps in access to maternal care that are worsening disparities,” Governor Lamont said. “This proposal seeks to reverse this trend by allowing birth centers to open and operate independently of hospitals, creating an alternative that makes accessing this essential care easier and more convenient. It is a moral imperative that we take actions to ensure safe pregnancies, no matter a family’s background.”
“The birth center model of care emphasizes personal attention and familiarity, including longer prenatal visits and continuous support from a midwife through labor,” Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, said. “Many also provide home visits and breast-feeding counseling in the postpartum period. They are truly there when mothers need them.”
The legislation is Senate Bill 986, An Act Protecting Maternal Health. It is being discussed today in a public hearing held by the legislature’s Public Health Committee.
Specifically, the bill will:
- License free-standing birth centers, allowing these facilities to operate as an alternative to traditional hospitals for low-risk pregnancies and deliveries. This will give parents in Connecticut more choices on where to receive their birthing care and allow new businesses to open. Birth centers are a high-value alternative to traditional hospitals for low-risk pregnancies. On average, birth centers save about $2,100 per infant mother pair and decrease the number of cesarean births. Birth centers have also been shown to increase vaginal births after cesarean deliveries and reduce preterm births.
- Create a certification pathway for doulas to make sure these professionals we welcome members of a parent’s care team, establish consistency and quality of care, and ensure that they are compensated appropriately. Doulas provide emotional and physical support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Research shows that doula services contribute to better pain management during labor, fewer cesarean deliveries, and shorter labor and delivery times. Currently, approximately 15 states certify doulas. Governor Lamont is also proposing to establish a workgroup that will recommend certification pathways for midwives and an Infant Mortality Review Program at the Department of Public Health to study infant deaths. Studying infant deaths will allow the department to provide recommendations to improve health disparities and care delivery to pre- and post-partum birthing people and their newborns.
- Direct state agencies to design a statewide program for universal nurse home visiting, building on a pilot program in the greater Bridgeport area. Universal nurse home visiting provides a population-level solution to offer care and services early in an infant’s life. It has also been shown to reduce the stigma associated with accessing care and services by serving as an entry point to connect high-risk families more effectively to Connecticut’s existing network of resources. Similar legislation has been enacted in Oregon and New Jersey.
The Public Health Committee is also holding a public hearing today on a separate bill Governor Lamont introduced, House Bill 6669, An Act Protecting Patients and Prohibiting Unnecessary Health Care Costs, that seeks to reduce the costs of health care services for Connecticut residents. Specifically, it will:
- Eliminate hospital facility fees charged at free-standing offices and clinics.
- Implement stronger regulatory enforcement tools at the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy to assure compliance with certificate of need requirements and related conditions of approval, such as cost controls, patient access, and detailed reporting. This will curb health care costs by preventing duplicative services in specific areas, while ensuring availability and access to critical services in all parts of the state.
- Commit Connecticut to joining a multistate bulk purchasing consortium to negotiate prescription drug discounts that all of the state’s residents will be able to access through a discount card at their pharmacy.
- Require the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy to annually publish a list of prescription drugs that are experiencing major price spikes to inform consumers and prescribers about which drug prices are going up and by how much.
- Rein in aggressive marketing practices by pharmaceutical representatives to ensure prescribers get clear and accurate information about the drugs they prescribe and generic alternatives. Pharmaceutical representatives will be required to complete a training, register with the state, and disclose relevant information about drug costs and efficacy across different races and ethnicity, if known.
- Strengthen protections to ensure that discounted prescription drugs purchased through the federal 340B program benefit the low-income consumers and communities the program was designed to help.
The governor said that he is also urging the committee to vote favorably upon that bill.
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