New Bill Mental Health and MAMA Aims to Break Barriers and Advance Maternal Health

by | May 15, 2024 | Maternal Health

While there is increasing awareness of health disparities that can affect pregnant people in the U.S., a crucial aspect of maternal health that should be talked about more is mental health. May is Maternal Mental Health Month, so we aim to do just that.

Maternal mental health (MMH) is a critical concern, affecting one in five women and leading to adverse health outcomes for both mothers and infants. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD during pregnancy add an additional layer of stress to what might already be an overwhelming time, as well as have long-term consequences. And as we’ve unfortunately seen from extensive maternal health research, factors such as racism and low socioeconomic status contribute to the risk and severity of MMH conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues, particularly for communities of color.

This is why we’re pleased that Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis) and Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced the Mental Health and Making Access More Affordable (MAMA) Act, a bill the National Partnership championed that would address the untreated maternal mental health crisis in America.

Untreated MMH conditions pose long-term risks for moms and babies, including hypertension, adverse pregnancy outcomes, preterm birth and negative impacts on infant development. People of color and those with low incomes are disproportionately burdened, with studies revealing higher rates of postpartum depression and limited access to treatment for these communities. Systemic racism, discrimination and social inequities not only inflict multi-generational trauma on Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) in this country, these intersecting structures of disadvantage create barriers to affordable and culturally appropriate mental health care. These external stressors can have significant effects on pregnancy, maternal health and a child’s development. Addressing MMH is crucial in combating the broader maternal mortality and morbidity crisis and promoting healthier communities overall.

Recognizing the pervasive impact of maternal mental health conditions, particularly among communities of color and those with low socioeconomic status, the Mental Health and MAMA Act of 2024 takes significant strides in enhancing access to mental health services for pregnant and postpartum individuals. The bill would:

  • Enhance access to mental health services and substance use disorder services for pregnant and postpartum individuals by removing cost-sharing requirements.
  • Ensure that the prohibition on cost-sharing applies from the diagnosis of pregnancy through the one-year period following such pregnancy.
  • Apply prohibition on cost-sharing to services provided by in-network health care providers.
  • Explicitly include telehealth services for mental health and substance use disorder services, ensuring that the prohibition on cost-sharing covers telehealth technologies.
  • Emphasize continuity of care, ensuring that the cost-sharing prohibition remains in effect during the specified period, even if the individual is enrolled for only a portion of that period.

Preventing and consistently treating mental health conditions is a critical component in addressing maternal health. The Mental Health and MAMA Act of 2024 is a big step forward in improving maternal health in this country and we’re so proud to have a part in helping make it happen.