House passes ‘Momnibus’ bill with measures for maternal health

By Isabella Sephaban
Kentucky Lantern

A maternal-health bill nicknamed “Momnibus’ was unanimously approved by the Kentucky House Tuesday after about 20 minutes of discussion.

The bipartisan House Bill 10 came out of a working group of Republican and Democratic women in the House and the Senate.

The Momnibus legislation would expand the Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS) program and allow such home-visitation programs to be available up to three years after a child’s birth. It also would educate mothers on topics such as the benefits of breastfeeding, safe sleep for infants, and provide lactation consultation and equipment. These services would also be available via telehealth.

Supporters say Momnibus addresses Kentucky’s high rate of maternal deaths following childbirth.

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, the bill’s main sponsor, said “53 percent of women who die in the year following childbirth die as a result of their substance-use disorder.”

Other factors that increase maternal mortality include diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.

“These are all made more difficult during and after pregnancy, and can cause dangerous situations,” said Moser, a Republican from Taylor Mill in Northern Kentucky.

Although these situations are harmful and at times, even deadly, Moser said that “deaths due to any of these factors are usually preventable, and the ways to prevent these deaths are to identify and treat these diseases early in the pregnancy, if not before.”

“This is why prenatal care is so critical,” she said.

During their workgroup, Moser and her colleagues discovered that “there’s no structured mechanism to accessing mental health care quickly, in that Kentucky families lack support during the postpartum period to keep mothers, babies, and their families healthy.”

Momnibus aims to help decrease these high maternal mortality rates by ensuring access to insurance coverage for pregnant women.

Although there are special enrollment periods to buy insurance coverage for marriage, divorce, and fostering children, there are no special enrollment periods available for pregnancy, said Moser.

“A special enrollment period will allow pregnant women to purchase insurance coverage for pregnancy to get the care that she and her baby need during the prenatal period, for a healthy delivery, and during postpartum,” she said.

Momnibus also aims to address the lack of mental health care available to pregnant women by implementing a new psychiatric access program called Lifeline for Moms.

Moser said this program will establish “a hotline for providers to get an immediate consultation for a mother in need of mental health services.”

The lawmakers working on Momnibus have already applied and received a $750,000 grant to start implementing the program. This grant would be used to “specify the needed stakeholders to study birth and pregnancy outcomes, make recommendations to improve outcomes, provide oversight for the Lifeline for Moms program, and provide an annual report of their research and observations,” according to Moser.

The bill is in the Senate awaiting a committee assignment. Moser told Kentucky Health News that it will be handled by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.

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