Choosing where to give birth usually depends on which hospital is most convenient to your home, where your obstetrician practices and your insurance company’s provider network.
Now, the Biden administration has given expectant parents another reason to consider: whether their hospital has won the government’s new “birth-friendly” designation.
But don’t worry – a maternity-friendly hospital isn’t hard to find: Most US facilities that deliver babies won the call, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the March of Dimes.. And that raises some questions about the severity of the administration’s tests for teaching. “I think it’s a good first start, but it’s a weak pattern,” he said Kathleen Simpson editor in chief of American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing.
In the DC area, most of the major hospitals and health systems that offer maternity care made the list, including Georgetown University Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, Howard University Hospital, Sibley Memorial, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Inova Health System.
The US has higher maternal and child mortality rates than similarly large and wealthy countries, especially among people of color — and the problem has has worsened in recent years. In addition, the decision of the Supreme Court in 2022 will be reversed Roe v. Wade has increased abortion barriers in many states, putting 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 says it is attacking the problem on several fronts, the birth-friendly name is one of the more 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 giving birth. So far, the administration has approved postpartum coverage extensions for 39 states and DC Medicaid pays for about 4 out of 10 births in the US.
To get the birth-friendly name, it was announced on Nov. 8, hospitals must only certify that they participate in a state or national quality collaboration and certify compliance with “evidence-based care.”
“That’s the lowest bar they can set,” Simpson said. “It doesn’t measure anything.”
Simpson hopes CMS will use nurse staffing ratios in maternity or neonatal units to help consumers differentiate between hospitals.
“I’m happy to see things happening but calling is not something that makes a difference,” he said.
Erin Jones director of legislative and strategic counsel at March of Dimes calls the birth name a “positive first step.”
He said that persuading hospitals to participate in quality improvement collaborations is not always easy. The designation, he said, could put pressure on hospitals that aren’t involved in improving the quality of maternity care to get started.
A CMS spokesperson said 66 percent of about 3,100 hospitals that reported data to a federal quality review program won the designation. But the spokeswoman could not say how many of the 3,100 provided obstetric care. Some hospitals across the country – especially in rural areas – have recently closed their labor and delivery units.
“It seems like every hospital gets the name, or very close to it,” Simpson said.