Closing gaps in oral health for pregnant women and new moms

By the CDHP team

In anticipation of Mother’s Day, this week Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act. Much like the MOMMA Act introduced earlier this year, the MOMMIES Act aims to reduce the alarmingly high rate of women who die from pregnancy-related causes each year, known as maternal mortality. It would take steps to improve maternal and infant health and eliminate inequities in access to maternal health care. As an organization dedicated to supporting family success by removing the barriers of dental disease, CDHP applauds the inclusion of important oral health provisions in the MOMMIES Act. The bill would close gaps in coverage and access to dental care for pregnant women and new moms.

The MOMMIES Act would close gaps in coverage and access to dental care for pregnant women and new moms.

As we have previously highlighted, dental care is safe and important during pregnancy. It’s an essential component of prenatal care, as poor oral health has been linked to pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and premature birth. However, current federal policy on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) does not guarantee coverage of oral health care for pregnant women who are enrolled. At the same time, the duration of pregnancy-related Medicaid/CHIP benefits is often too short even when dental care is covered. The MOMMIES Act would lift these hurdles. It would extend full Medicaid and CHIP benefits for pregnant women to one year postpartum and require coverage of oral health services as part of the benefits package in both programs.

In addition, the bill would establish a maternity care home demonstration project, providing grants to states to test innovative approaches to woman- and family-centered maternity and postpartum care. Among the many goals of this demonstration project is improving care coordination between maternity, infant, and oral health care as well as community-based social services. These pilots would also be required to assign eligible women to care coordinators who can provide or connect them to an array of support services, including oral health education, home visiting services, housing supports, and transportation.

Other notable provisions of the MOMMIES Act would:

  • Improve data collection on pregnant women’s access to oral health care by directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on gaps in in Medicaid and CHIP. This could help guide efforts to end barriers to care for pregnant women and new moms.
  • Highlight innovative approaches to care delivery by directing the GAO to report on the use of tele-health services for pregnant women in state Medicaid programs, including oral health care. A number of states have already taken initiative to utilize tele-dentistry through the Virtual Dental Home model.
  • Expand the reach of the health care system through non-clinical providers by directing the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to report on the coverage of doula care in Medicaid and requiring CMS to issue guidance to states on increasing access to doulas.

Oral health plays a critical role in a healthy pregnancy and the health of every child. If enacted, the MOMMIES Act would be a huge achievement in prioritizing pregnant women’s oral health and the well-being of new mothers and their infants. CDHP applauds Senator Booker and Congresswoman Pressley for recognizing the longstanding inequities in our health care system and attempting to address them holistically.

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Did you know?

Children with poor oral health were nearly 3x more likely to miss school due to dental pain.
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