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December 20, 2019

King Backs Bill to Help Rural Mothers Access Healthcare

Rural MOMS Act improves data collection, creates new funding opportunities, and expands training strategies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of Bipartisan Policy Center’s Rural Health Task Force, announced his cosponsorship of the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) Act. The bipartisan bill would improve data collection, expand services, and award funding to help ensure that new and expecting moms living in rural communities get the care they need.

“New and expecting mothers deserve access to high-quality care, no matter where they live,” said Senator King. “Unfortunately, rural communities are lagging behind on access to this vital, life-saving care – and that’s unacceptable. As one of the most rural states in the nation, this challenge is uniquely pressing in Maine, which is why I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan, commonsense legislation to protect the health of women during and after pregnancy.”

The Rural MOMS Act would:  

  • Improve Rural Maternal and Obstetric Care Data by directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to coordinate efforts with respect to maternal mortality and morbidity, report on women’s health conditions according to sociocultural and geographic contexts, and emphasize research on pregnancy-related deaths.
  • Award New Rural Obstetric Network Grants to establish regional innovation networks to improve maternal mortality and morbidity as well as birth outcomes.
  • Expand Existing Federal Telehealth Grant Programs to include birth and postpartum services as part of telehealth networks and to allow federal funding to be used for ultrasound machines, fetal monitoring equipment, and other pregnancy-related technology.
  • Establish a New Rural Maternal and Obstetric Care Training Demonstration to support training for family medicine physicians, obstetricians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, doulas, and other professionals to provide maternal care services in rural community-based settings.
  • Report on Maternal Care in Rural Areas to identify the locations of gaps in maternity care, disparities in maternal health in rural areas by race and ethnicity, recommendations to standardize data collection on maternal mortality and morbidity, and activities to improve maternal care in rural areas.

During his time in the Senate, Senator King has been a strong advocate for accessible and affordable rural healthcare. In October, he held a panel discussion in Bangor with local healthcare providers and public wellness experts on the best ways to use prevention strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. In November, Senator King announced his support for the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act. In late July, he joined a bipartisan group of senators to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay their proposed Rural Health Care (RHC) Program report and order to better address the concerns of rural healthcare providers and medical communities. In the June edition of his Inside Maine podcast, Senator King welcomed both U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Kris Doody, CEO of Cary Medical Center to discuss rural healthcare policy and ways to improve access to care across the country.

Last year, Senator King and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) applauded a draft proposal from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai that significantly increased funding for the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care (RHC) Program. This increase in the RHC funding cap followed bipartisan letters Senator King led calling for the RHC program to be modernized and strengthened. Also in the 115th Congress, Senator King cosponsored legislation such as the Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital Act, the Preserve Access to Medicare Rural Home Health Service Act, and the Rural Hospital Access Act, all of which work to better healthcare services in Maine and the United States.

In addition to Senator King, this bill is supported by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

The Rural MOMS Act is endorsed by: Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs; Every Mother Counts; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; National Birth Equity Collaborative; March of Dimes; Nurse-Family Partnership; and the National Rural Health Association.

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