Two Delaware House of Representative members talked up the benefits of their doulas before a bill requiring Medicaid to cover their services passed unanimously Thursday.
A doula is someone who provides physical and emotional support to pregnant women. The bill would require the state to cover their services for three prenatal and postpartum visits, both up to 90 minutes, as well as during labor and birth.
Rep. Deshanna Neal, D-Elsmere, said that it’s thanks to a doula that she was able to survive the birth of her son after 36 hours of labor.
“I didn’t realize I had a heart rate of 175 for an hour straight, and had it not been from my doula recognizing this issue, they would never have brought the doctors in to find a blood clot in my leg from being in bed and in labor for so long,” Neal said. “Doulas are amazing.”
Rep. Sherae’a Moore, D-Middletown, D-New Castle, who used a doula when giving birth to a son in early June said the practice she had been going to wasn’t taking her condition seriously. She praised her doula for the safe birth of her child.
Moore said she has underlying medical circumstances and should have been considered a high-risk pregnancy, but wasn’t. The practice didn’t tell her that she had had a hemorrhage.
“I could’ve died,” she said. “I’m thankful to my doula for helping me have that birthing experience that could have quickly turned into something else.”
Related Story: Bill calls for Medicaid to reimburse doula services
House Bill 80, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, would require that Medicaid cover the services of a doula starting Jan. 1, 2024.
The bill instructs the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to set up a certification process for doulas and provide a livable annual income for full-time doulas.
Minor-Brown said her bill will be especially helpful for black women because of their increased risks they have during childbirth.
“The CDC and the World Health Organization rang the alarm when they stated that black maternal mortality was on the rise in the United States,” Minor-Brown said.
It is public health crisis because most of the deaths are preventable, he said.
According to the 2021 Delaware Child Death Review Commission, from 2015 to 2020, there were 17 deaths per 100,000 live births for the general population, but for black women, that number jumped up to 52 per 100,000, which represented 78% of pregnancy-related deaths.
The bill’s fiscal note said it will cost the state $51,325 in recurring costs and $250,000 in one-time costs for the 2024 fiscal year, $102,600 in recurring costs for the 2025 fiscal year, and $153,975 in recurring costs for the 2026 fiscal year.
Related Story: Black doulas aim to reduce ethnic birth disparities
Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, said that the women’s caucus heard from primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and OB-GYNs earlier in the day Thursday about how important doulas are.
“They were all saying the importance and critical role that doulas can help play especially when we have so many underserved because we simply do not have enough OB-GYN practitioners,” Briggs King said. “This started a couple years ago when we said the challenge is going to be funding and so now here we’re getting the funding so that the people that need the services and can’t afford them will have them.”
The bill, which now makes its way to the Health & Social Services Committee in the Senate with 21 additional sponsors and cosponsors, 18 Democrats and three Republicans.
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