NEW JERSEY – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) reintroduced bipartisan legislation Friday to support the use of technology to help close the gap in maternal health care and address the racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality outcomes.
The Tech to Save Moms Act invests in and promotes the integration and development of telehealth and other digital tools that can help reduce maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity. The legislation is based on a recommendation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that indicates that the usage of digital tools, including an expansion of remote patient monitoring and promoting virtual training and capacity, plays a critical role in addressing specific challenges patients and providers are facing, especially in underserved communities.
“Before the pandemic, New Jersey had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country and alarming racial disparities in maternal health outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated barriers to equitable maternity care,” Menendez said. “The Tech to Save Moms Act will allow us to leverage new technologies to improve the integration of telehealth services in maternal health care, combat implicit biases, and ultimately reduce disparities in maternal health outcomes.”
“The mortality rates for expectant mothers throughout the United States are far too high,” Sullivan said. “In Alaska, this challenge is even more severe for mothers who live in our remote communities, hundreds of miles from the nearest health care facility. New, emerging digital tools can enable a provider to assess mothers wherever they are, improve health outcomes, and bring down unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality. I am excited to join Senator Menendez in reintroducing this legislation to utilize the best in technology today to keep moms healthy and save lives throughout America and Alaska.”
The Tech to Save Moms Act is included in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, recently introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.-14). This sweeping package includes twelve bills to end maternal mortality and to close racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.
“Access to equitable maternal health care is a pressing issue that requires innovative solutions,” Sen. Booker said. “This bill recognizes the transformative potential of technology to reduce maternal mortality and address racial disparities in maternal health outcomes. By investing in telehealth and digital tools, we can overcome barriers to care, combat implicit biases, and ensure that all mothers, regardless of their location or background, have access to quality healthcare.”
The Tech to Save Moms Act will:
- Require the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to consider models that improve the integration of telehealth services in maternal health care
- Provide funding for technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models that will develop and disseminate instructional programming and training for maternity care providers in rural and underserved areas, covering topics such as:
- Safety and quality improvement
- Addressing maternal mental and behavioral health conditions
- Identifying social determinants of health risks in the prenatal and postpartum periods
- Establish a grant program to promote digital tools designed to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly in rural and underserved communities
- Commission a comprehensive study on the use of technology in maternity care to reduce maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 700 women die each year in the United States due to pregnancy or delivery complications, and Black, Native American and Alaska Native women are two-to-three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. According to the 2021 Nurture NJ Strategic Plan, Black women in New Jersey from 2014 to 2016 had approximately seven times more pregnancy-related deaths (46.9 per 100,000 live births) than white women (6.5 per 100,000 live births).
As defined by the CDC, Severe Maternal Morbidity (SMM) is the unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health. New Jersey’s SMM rates are among the highest in the U.S., according to a 2020 report by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH). In 2018, rates of SMM among New Jersey Black, non-Hispanic women were nearly three times greater than those of non-Hispanic white women.
In 2021, Sens. Menendez and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) first introduced the Tech to Save Moms Act to reduce the mortality rate among new and expectant mothers in the U.S. by providing innovative emerging digital tools that can assess mothers wherever they are located – no matter how remote, and regardless of their socioeconomic status.
The Tech to Save Moms Act is supported by more than 180 organizations, including the American Academy of Nursing, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Association of Black Women Physicians, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, MomsRising, National Organization for Women, National Urban League, National Women’s Law Center, New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, Partners in Health, and Protect Our Care.
“As part of our longstanding commitment to expanding access to care for underserved communities, the ATA and ATA Action proudly stand behind the Tech to Save Moms Act, introduced by telehealth champions, Senators Menendez and Sullivan, to improve the maternal health outcomes for rural and underserved populations,” said Kyle Zebley, senior vice president, public policy, American Telemedicine Association, and executive director, ATA Action. “This bipartisan legislation leverages virtual care to assist in bridging gaps in maternal healthcare, including testing telehealth models in maternity care services, providing grants to expand technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity models to help pregnant and postpartum women, and authorizing grants to increase access to digital tools.”