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Weinberg-Gill Bill to Provide Medicaid Coverage for Doula Care Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Nia H. Gill to provide for an expansion of the State Medicaid program to include coverage for doula care was approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“Doula care helps mothers to have a positive experience during childbirth and a safe delivery. It also improves birth outcomes, can reduce the cost of childbirth and after care for both the mother and child. Expanding Medicaid coverage for this type of care will provide access to an important benefit for women who need support in circumstances that are often stressful, confusing and emotionally exhausting,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen).

Studies show that mothers who use doulas are less likely to utilize pain medication and require fewer caesarean sections and the newborns are less likely to experience stress.

To obtain the federal approval, the Commissioner of Human Services is to apply for such State plan amendments or waivers as may be necessary to implement the provisions of the bill and to secure federal financial participation for State Medicaid expenditures under the federal Medicaid program, according to the bill (S-2427). The legislation will permit the Commissioner of Human Services to establish regulations to implement the bill, including eligibility rules and coverage limitations. 

“Expanding the availability of doulas to expectant mothers will provide emotional, physical, and practical help and will produce more positive results for mothers and their newborns both during and after childbirth,” said Senator Gill. “The assistance provided by a doula will also help to establish a foundation that can create long-term health benefits for the family.”

A doula is a trained professional who provides physical, emotional and educational support, but not medical care to mothers before, during and after childbirth. Research has demonstrated that support from a doula is associated with lower caesarian section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, decreased use of pain medication, shorter labor hours and higher scores on the APGAR test (which indicates how well the baby is doing outside the womb).

States such as Oregon and Minnesota have expanded Medicaid coverage to include doula services for pregnant patients.

S-2427 cleared the committee and it now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.