Testimony to the House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee Recommendations Relating to the Department of State Health Services Budget
We thank House leaders for including DSHS’ Exceptional Item #2 to Combat Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in Texas in House Bill 1. This is critical funding in order to save lives, take action on the Maternal Mortality & Morbidity Task Force’s recommendations, and improve health for mothers and babies in our state. Maternal deaths and severe pregnancy complications remain a significant concern in Texas, resulting in tragedy and long-term health issues for many mothers and children. In addition to the health and emotional toll, pregnancy complications – which are much more common than a maternal death – lead to higher Medicaid-paid costs during and after pregnancy, and can lead to higher Medicaid neonatal costs when babies are born too early or too small.
The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force did an in-depth review of 2012 maternal death cases and found that black women were 2.3 times more likely to experience maternal death, and that the vast majority (80 percent) of maternal deaths in 2012 were preventable. Also, after using an enhanced method, the Task Force found that the majority of maternal deaths occurred more than 60 days postpartum – highlighting that risks remain after a mom leaves the delivery room.1 Although there are many factors that contributed to these poor health outcomes and racial disparities, one of the best strategies to reverse these trends is to ensure women have access to health care before, during, and after pregnancy – as recommended by the Texas Task Force.
The $7 million for DSHS’ Exceptional Item is vital funding to implement TexasAIM maternal safety initiatives statewide, to implement a maternal care coordination pilot for women, and to increase public awareness and prevention activities. This funding would bring TexasAIM safety protocols to more hospitals and birthing facilities in rural and urban areas and enable hospitals to implement new safety bundles (like the hypertension and the opioid use safety bundles). Funding would help DSHS implement new programs, including a care coordination pilot, that would help identify risks early to prevent pregnancy complications and save lives. These important initiatives are in line with the recommendations released by the Task Force and will help Texas keep mothers and babies healthy.