Analysis | The Biden administration is nibbling on the maternal health crisis

Good afternoon! I’m Phil Galewitz, a Washington-based reporter for KFF Health News who covers Medicaid, Medicare and the business of medicine. I’ve written about craft beer, but now I visit Northern Virginia farm breweries with my dog, Leo, to enjoy their hard ciders, seltzers, and mountain views. If you have any suggestions for stories, or a favorite place to take your pup, send them to

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Today’s Edition: Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died after entering hospice. President Biden has tapped the next head of the federal government’s top cancer research agency. But first…

The Biden administration has designated most baby-friendly hospitals as “birth-friendly.” Is it useful?

The choice of where to give birth is typical of which hospital is more convenient for your home, where your obstetric practices and the network of the insurance company.

Now, the Biden administration has given expectant parents another factor to consider: whether their hospital has won the government’s new “birth-friendly” designation.

But don’t worry – a birth-friendly hospital won’t be hard to find: Most U.S. facilities that deliver babies have earned the designation, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the March of Dimes.. And that raises some questions about the rigor of the administration’s tests for the designation. “I think this is a good first start, but it’s a pretty weak standard,” he said Kathleen Simpsoneditor in chief of the American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing.

In the DC area, most major hospitals and health systems that offer maternity care made the list, including Georgetown University Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, Howard University Hospital, the Sibley Memorial, the MedStar Washington Hospital Center and the Inova Health System.

The United States has much higher maternal and infant mortality rates than similarly large and wealthy countries, especially for people of color—and the problem has worse in recent years. In addition, the decision of the Supreme Court in 2022 to cancel Roe v. Wade has increased barriers to abortion in many states, putting even more pressure on the feds to improve maternal and child health. The White House has made the crisis a priority, with Vice President Harris leading the government’s response.

While the administration said it will attack the problem on several fronts, the favorable designation at birth is one of the most visible efforts for consumers.

The Biden administration also successfully pushed states to offer pregnant women continued coverage under Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income people, for up to a year after delivery. So far, the administration has approved postpartum coverage extensions for 39 states and DC Medicaid pays for about 4 in 10 births in the United States.

To obtain the birth-friendly designation, announced on November 8, hospitals only had to certify that they participate in a state or national quality partnership and certify that they adhere to “evidence-based care.”

“That’s the lowest bar they could set,” Simpson said. “It doesn’t measure anything.”

Simpson had hoped that CMS would use nurse staffing ratios in maternity or neonatal units to help consumers differentiate between hospitals.

“I’m glad to see things happening, but the designation is not something that will make a difference,” he said.

Erin Jonesdirector of legislative and strategic advice at the March of Dimescalled the birth designation a “positive first step.”

She said convincing hospitals to participate in quality improvement collaborations is not always easy. The designation, he said, can put pressure on hospitals that are not committed to quality improvement in maternity care to begin with.

A CMS spokesperson said 66 percent of approximately 3,100 hospitals that report data to a federal quality review program has earned the designation. But the spokesman could not say how many of the 3,100 provide obstetric care. Some hospitals across the country—especially in rural areas—have recently closed its work and delivery units.

“It looks like every hospital has received the designation, or very close to it,” Simpson said.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues and is one of the core operational programs at KFF – an independent source of health policy research, polling and journalism.

White House prescriptions

Rosalynn Carter died at 96

Rosalynn Cartera political and political adviser close to her husband, the president Jimmy Carterwho advocated for better treatment of the mentally ill, died yesterday at his home in Plains, Ga. He was 96 years old, The Post Joe Holley and Kevin Sullivan report

U Carter Center in Atlanta, who announced her death, had revealed in May that she had dementia. On Friday, two days before her death, the center said she had joined her husband in hospice care at home.

A closer look: Rosalynn Carter developed an interest in mental health during her husband’s first political campaigns, and made the issue her top priority when the couple reached the White House. His efforts were instrumental in congressional approval of and funding for the Mental Health Systems Act of September 1980, the first major reform of publicly funded federal mental health programs in nearly two decades. She continued her advocacy work for four decades.

Biden chooses Dr. Vanderbilt to lead the National Cancer Institute

President Biden on Friday taped W. Kimryn Rathmell to serve as the next director of the National Cancer Instituteour partner Dan Diamond broke out

Rathmell, a kidney cancer expert and the chair of medicine in Vanderbilt University Medical Centerwill assume the leadership of the agency in December. She succeeds Monica Bertagnollithat the Senate confirmed as director of the National Institutes of Health this month.

A closer look: As director of the cancer institute, Rathmell will play a central role in the achievement of Biden the “cancer moonshot” initiative.which is intended to cut the number of US deaths from the disease in half over the next 25 years.

In an interview with Dan, Bertagnolli said she thinks Rathmell is well positioned to manage the $7.3 billion agency, having served on its board of scientific advisors since 2018. As a board member, he helped develop and launch the cancer institute in April 2023. national cancer planthat detailed eight goals to prevent cancer and save lives, Bertagnolli said.

  • “Now, she will be the one to lead its execution as it enters into this work,” the NIH director added.

The American Association for Cancer Research:

A medical services company whose quality of care is the focus of a probe launched after the death of an 8-year-old girl in US border custody has been selected as a finalist for a $1.5 billion government contract, The Post Nick Miroff reports.

The details: Based in Florida Loyal Source Services Government is among half a dozen companies on the shortlist for a five-year contract to provide medical screening and services for the thousands of migrants detained each day along the US-Mexico border, according to three. US Customs and Border Protection officials and records obtained by The Post.

CBP officials, which is conducting the investigation, say Loyal Source is the only company currently large enough to meet the government’s requirements. But medical officials and investigators have raised growing concerns about the quality and safety of that care.

  • For example: The company has struggled for years to staff facilities with nurses and doctors, often using lower-level emergency medical technicians who earn a third of the pay or less, according to two current employees who spoke to The Post on condition of anonymity. anonymous.

Haley says she would sign a six-week abortion ban if she were still governor of SC

Pressed on abortion at Christian conservative meeting, GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley she said on Friday that she would sign a six-week abortion ban in his home state of South Carolina if he were still governor, The Post Hannah Knowles reports.

Why is it important: On the campaign trail, Haley tried to hit a more nuanced tone on abortion that some of his fellow Republican hopefuls calling the legislators to look for areas of “consensus” at the federal level. At the same time, she said before that she supports any restriction on the procedure that can pass while removing calls to a particular limit.

China has promised to bring back the fentanyl chemicals. The impact is not clear.

Policy experts remain skeptical whether China’s commitment to work with the United States to counter the illicit drug trade will make a lasting dent in the global illicit drug supply chain, our colleagues. David Ovalle and John Hudson report

Key context: The White House announced last week that Beijing had agreed to crack down on companies that produce precursor chemicals for fentanyl, scoring a political victory for President Biden as he runs for re-election and is eager to demonstrate progress in addressing the nation’s enduring drug crisis.

But some experts question whether China will follow suit — or even if it’s even capable of rooting out shady players who use encrypted communications and cryptocurrency while selling precursor chemicals to Mexican drug traffickers. Others say that even if Beijing keeps its end of the deal, sales of illicit supplies will simply migrate to other countries, such as India.

The view from the Biden administration: China’s promise is just a first step, White House drug czar Rahul Gupta he said in an interview, adding that Beijing needs to tighten regulations to ensure shipments from China go to legitimate customers.

  • “We also know that criminal elements could move quickly into countries like India,” Gupta said. “It is time for us to double and triple our efforts with India to curb it.”

📅 Welcome back, and happy birthday President Biden! The president turns 81 today — but his re-election team would probably prefer to forget that.

The House and Senate are both out for the Thanksgiving break, after skipping town last week after hammering out a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government lights on through the new year.

The Va mental health system. Could it be solved before the next tragedy? (By Jenna Portnoy and Justin Jouvenal | The Washington Post)

Newsom TV ad hits DeSantis on abortion as Fox debate looms (By Christopher Cadelago | Politico)

Oregon’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law faces pushback amid fentanyl crisis (By Claire Rush | Associated Press)

Extra Fees Drive Assisted Living Profits (By Jordan Rau | New York Times)

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