CMS unveils new model to support Medicaid agencies in offering whole-person maternal health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is rolling out a new payment model that aims to support state Medicaid agencies in offering whole-person maternal care.

The new Transforming Maternal Health model is a 10-year long approach, and during that time states can secure $17 million in funding for the changes. The goal, CMS said in a release, is to better back states as they develop and implement programs that support pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care for women enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Through the program, women will receive personalized support during pregnancy and postpartum, CMS said. The model also backs increased access to key providers, such as doulas, midwives or birth centers.

“We have heard loud and clear that many women do not feel listened to or supported during their birth experience, and the current rate of maternal morbidity and mortality is deeply concerning,” said CMS Deputy Administrator and Innovation Center Director Liz Fowler in the release. “This model aims to improve health outcomes for mothers and their newborns, and support a system that makes mothers feel empowered, safe and healthy throughout their pregnancy and postpartum.”

Medicaid agencies will also work with CMS to ensure that hospitals and health systems secure the "birthing friendly" designation, which certifies their focus on maternal care. Medicaid programs will also receive assistance in rolling out new evidence-based programs, such as in-home monitoring for people with pregnancy-related conditions like gestational diabetes and hypertension.

Providers in participating states will also screen for and address pregnant patients' social challenges, including housing or food insecurity and substance abuse, in partnership with community organizations.

In a statement, Kim Keck, CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, said that the program "will help improve the lives of many new mothers and babies." BCBSA has also launched a pledge to make a major dent in maternal health disparities.

"This new model is a critical step forward to meaningfully address the maternal health crisis," Keck said. "We look forward to collaborating with the administration, states and other healthcare leaders to close these extreme clinical care gaps."

Soumi Saha, senior vice president of government affairs for Premier, said in a statement that the new model builds on the Biden administration's efforts around maternal care.

"Maternal health is a national health crisis in the U.S. warranting increased focus to raise the bar on quality, safety and cost of care for mothers and infants," Saha said. "Premier applauds today’s announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on the creation of a novel model to further test, identify and scale opportunities to improve care for mothers and infants across the entire pregnancy journey including perinatal, childbirth and postpartum."