House committee approves ‘momnibus’ maternal health bill

February 9, 2024 | 12:12 am

Updated February 9, 2024 | 12:12 am

House Health Services Committee Chair Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, (left) testifies on House Bill 10, which would address maternal health issues in Kentucky, before the committee on Thursday. She and Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, (right) are primary co-sponsors of the legislation. | Photo by KY LRC

Bipartisan legislation geared toward reducing Kentucky’s high maternal mortality rate advanced from the House Health Services Committee on Thursday.

House Bill 10 is primarily co-sponsored by Committee Chair Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, and Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg. Nicknamed the “momnibus” bill – a combination of mom and omnibus – the legislation would take several steps to support maternal health, infant health, and families.

“According to the CDC, Kentucky has the second highest maternal mortality for rate of death in the first year following childbirth in the nation,” Moser said. “The initiatives in this legislation address areas of high concern.”

Lack of access to prenatal care, mental health care, and treatment for substance use disorder are just three of the main areas of high concern. Moser said substance use disorders are the number one reason Kentucky women die within the first year of childbirth. Tate said 89% of Kentucky’s maternal deaths are preventable.

“One of the things we discovered as we were going through this investigation is there’s actually a lot of things that we can do (to prevent maternal death),” Tate added.

One way is by making pregnancy a qualifying life event for health insurance purposes, Moser said.

Under HB 10, a health benefit plan would be required to cover in-home treatment for a substance use disorder, maternity care associated with pregnancy, and child birth and postpartum care. Plans would also be required to cover labor and delivery and all breastfeeding services and supplies. Telehealth would also be permitted.

As for mental health care, Moser said HB 10 would establish the Kentucky Lifeline for Moms. The hotline will operate out of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which has already received a grant to implement the program. HB 10 would codify the program.

“A psychiatrist and a psychologist will be hired to answer calls from an OBGYN or primary care physician, someone who is caring for a pregnant mother who might have a mental health need,” Moser said. “This extends through postpartum care as well.”

HB 10 would also expand the Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS) program by providing mothers and families counseling and education on breastfeeding, lactation, and safe sleep and allowing telehealth for those services.

Tate said HB 10 will improve women’s health care.

“I’m really excited about this and to assist women to make sure that they have good quality health care and good outcomes,” she said.

Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, asked the sponsors if the Kentucky Department of Insurance flagged the bill for defrayal.

Moser said she has not seen the bill marked as a cost defrayal to the state. However, there are some questions about the insurance provisions and a floor amendment may be in the works to address any issues, she added.

HB 10 was approved by the House Health Services Committee by a 15-0 vote with two pass votes. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

Co-sponsor Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said HB 10 is an “excellent bill.”

“I’m so eager for this to become law,” she said.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

February 9, 2024 | 12:12 am

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