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Maternal Health Accountability Act (H.R. 894)

Despite spending more money than any other country on health care, the United States has a higher maternal mortality rate than 40 other countries, with more than two women dying every day in the United States from pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia and eclampsia. “Near misses” are also important to quantify and understand. According to a 2010 report released by Amnesty International (AI), nearly 65,000 women almost died from pregnancy-related conditions in 2004 and 2005. Approximately 16% of the reported maternal deaths were due to preeclampsia and eclampsia. The AI report also indicated that as alarming as these figures are, they “probably significantly understate” the actual numbers because of the limitation of maternal health statistics currently being captured.

On March 3, 2011, the Maternal Health Accountability Act (H.R. 894) was introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) to work toward establishing an accurate picture of maternal mortality in the United States. The bill seeks to provide funds to states to establish Maternal Mortality Review Committees that will allow states to accurately report and understand the causes and effects of maternal mortality. HR 894 also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to organize a national workshop with a goal of developing uniform definitions of severe maternal morbidity in the United States and work to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes. A more formal reporting and analysis process should lead to improvement in care evaluation, the development of guidelines and the improvement of research through the data collected.

It’s important for patient advocacy organizations like the Preeclampsia Foundation to be part of the planning process in partnership with care providers and other stakeholders. In the coming weeks, we will be engaging Rep. Conyers and other co-sponsors of the bill to offer our recommendations about how the legislation can build on and seek to expand state-based initiatives already in place.

By shining a light on the women and babies who are most at risk of pregnancy-related complications and death, the bill seeks to make a significant step forward toward reversing current trends and improving pregnancy health and well-being in the United States.

Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011 (HR 894) - Amends title V (Maternal and Child Health Services) of the Social Security Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to states for: (1) mandatory reporting to the state department of health by health care providers and other entities of pregnancy-related deaths; (2) establishment of a state maternal mortality review committee on pregnancy-related deaths occurring within such state; (3) implementation and use of the comprehensive case abstraction form by such committee to preserve the uniformity of the information collected; and (4) annual public disclosure of committee findings.

Directs the Secretary, acting through the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to: (1) organize a national workshop to identify definitions for severe maternal morbidity and make recommendations for a research plan to identify and monitor such morbidity in the United States; and (2) develop uniform definitions of severe maternal morbidity, a research plan, and possible data collection protocols to assist states in identifying and monitoring such cases.

Amends the Public Health Service Act to direct the Secretary to carry out specified research and demonstration activities to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes.

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