New Jersey, like many states, faces rising maternal mortality rates and racial disparities. A recent review of pregnancy-related deaths in the state from 2009 to 2013 found 46.2 percent of deaths occurred in Black women, compared to 26.9 percent in White women. With approximately 40 percent of New Jersey’s births covered by Medicaid, the governor’s office recently announced the following Medicaid initiatives to improve maternal health and reduce overall health care costs.
Medicaid Coverage of Doula Care: Legislation passed in 2019 enabled Medicaid coverage of doula services in the state. A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the birthing parent throughout the perinatal period. Doula care has been shown to reduce cesarean rates, improve birth experiences, and improve birth outcomes. Once doulas receive the community-based doula training from an approved program, they are able to enroll as fee-for-service providers and with Medicaid managed care organizations.
New Jersey has designated two levels of doula care eligible for reimbursement, standard and enhanced care.
- Services for standard care include up to eight perinatal visits and attendance during labor and delivery with a reimbursement rate of $800.08.
- Enhanced care is for members age 19 or younger and services include 12 perinatal visits and attendance during labor and delivery with a reimbursement of $1,066.
- Additionally, for both levels of care there is an $100 incentive for postpartum, follow-up visits.
In order to receive the incentive payment, doulas must provide a postpartum service visit within six weeks of delivery and use the code 99199 HD U8 for billing. An obstetric clinician follow-up visit must occur within six weeks of delivery to receive the incentive payment but is not required for doulas to receive reimbursement for other services. Doulas serving Medicaid enrollees must be trained to provide culturally competent care that supports the diversity of the members and assist members with community-based services to improve health outcomes. Currently, Minnesota and Oregon cover doula services for all Medicaid recipients and New York has a pilot program running in two counties. Additionally, as directed by their state legislatures, Virginia and Washington State have submitted reports and studies on implementation of Medicaid reimbursement.
Increased Payments to Certified Nurse Midwives: In an effort to increase access to quality maternity services, New Jersey Medicaid has also increased the reimbursement rate of certified nurse midwives (CNMs) to be equivalent to 95 percent of the current rate for physicians who provide prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum services. A CNM is an advanced practice registered nurse (with a master’s degree in nursing) who specializes in the care of women throughout their life course, including pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. According to the most recent Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data, 33.1 percent of Black, non-Hispanic mothers in New Jersey reported receiving late or no prenatal care, compared to 14.6 percent of White, non-Hispanic mothers. The increase in reimbursement rates for CNMs is designed to build a larger network of midwives and increase access to quality pregnancy-related care for mothers and babies in New Jersey. As of 2013, approximately 34 states and Washington, DC, reimburse CNMs at 90 to 100 percent of the rate of earned by practicing physicians.
Medicaid Will Not Pay for Non-Medically Necessary, Early-Elective Deliveries (EED): In 2019, New Jersey passed a law that no provider will be approved for reimbursement by Medicaid for a non-medically indicated, early-elective delivery performed at a hospital on a pregnant woman earlier than the 39th week of gestation. Scheduled cesarean sections or medical inductions performed prior to 39 weeks carry risks for both mother and baby. Overall, New Jersey’s rate of surgical births (cesareans) is 30.3 percent. The benefits of non-surgical birth include shorter hospital stays, reduced infection rates, lower blood clot risk, and fewer infants born with difficulty breathing. Currently, 20 states have reduced or eliminated payment for procedures (EEDs, elective inductions, and non-medically necessary cesarean sections) that do not follow clinical guidelines. The new Medicaid policy in New Jersey supports education campaigns and hospital initiatives that are already in place to lower non-medically necessary EEDs. The new policy will not affect mothers who have medical indications for early delivery.
Providers Required to Complete the Perinatal Risk Assessment (PRA) Forms: In 2019, the state passed a law requiring Medicaid providers to complete PRAs during the first prenatal visit for all Medicaid enrollees. The tool is used to identify demographic, medical, and psychosocial factors that can help determine case management plans for pregnancies. The PRA form has been updated to included assessment of alcohol and drug use and COVID-19-related challenges. The state will use the data collected from the PRAs to analyze and identify risk factors among pregnant Medicaid enrollees in the state.
State Medicaid programs have the opportunity to implement policy changes, similar to New Jersey’s, that support improving maternal and infant health outcomes. Given current budget challenges in states, funding can be challenging, but these policy changes can result in cost savings by lowering cesarean rates, decreasing length of stays in hospitals, and improving overall birth outcomes. The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) will continue to track state maternal and child health policies.