[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]
As a latecomer to the 2020 presidential race, Democratic hopeful Mike Bloomberg has some catching up to do. Many of the other candidates have spent more than a year rolling out their policy plans, including proposals on how to solve America's crisis of rising maternal mortality rate, particularly among African American mothers.
This week Bloomberg jumped on that admirable bandwagon, announcing his maternal mortality crisis initiatives in Montgomery, Alabama.
"In the greatest and wealthiest country in the world, we cannot accept the disgraceful racial inequality in maternal health care that exists in Alabama and across the country," the former mayor of New York said in a press release. "As president, I will make ending that inequality and improving health care for African American women a top priority—and the plan I am announcing today will help us do it."
Maternal health care needs to be a priority for politicians at all levels because black women in America are 3-4 times more likely to die after childbirth than white women. Late in 2018, the president signed the bipartisan Preventing Maternal Deaths Act into law, expanding funding for programs to review why so many women are dying.
And in late 2019 President Trump signed a bill funding a Maternal Mental Health Interagency Task Force. It will see The Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency create a task force of various federal agencies and will detail the roles each agency can play in addressing maternal mental health in a report expected in June 2020.
That is just a few months before America will decide its next President, and most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls want to see even more done to address the maternal health crisis. They've mentioned the issue on the debate stage and on the campaign trail.
Kamala Harris is out of the race now, but her efforts during her run for the presidency included the reintroduction of her 2018 Maternal CARE Act, aiming to create grants to ensure black mothers have access to maternal care and that healthcare providers are trained to avoid the kind of bias that can kill black mothers. Like Harris, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have been very vocal about the issue, and both have written op-eds for Essence magazine detailing their plans.
Former Vice President Joe Biden says his plan for America would follow California's lead. While the rest of the country has seen maternal mortality increase in recent years, California has seen its overall maternal mortality drop by 55% between 2006 to 2013 (but black moms are still at an increased risk there).
Andrew Yang's health care plan includes investing "in implicit bias training for healthcare providers to ensure Black women receive life-saving maternal care," and full coverage of all maternity costs.
Pete Buttigieg's plan for improving rural health care includes the expansion of mothers' Medicaid coverage one year postpartum (it is currently 60 days), and Senator Bernie Sanders has explained that he intends to address racial disparities in maternal health care through Medicare For All. In a statement to SELF, his campaign explained that if elected, Sanders' would "require the Department of Health to conduct an evaluation of health disparities, including racial and geographic disparities, and to submit a plan to Congress for addressing the disparities found in the evaluation."
Bloomberg's newly released plan includes requiring doctors to undergo training to understand and fight implicit bias in medicine. It will standardize maternal mortality collection at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and use the data to establish programs that will help clinicians to identify risks. It provides a free public option insurance plan for low-income women who live in states (like Alabama) that haven't expanded Medicaid and are currently only able to get coverage for 60 days after giving birth. The billionaire also plans to expand funding for medical schools at historically black colleges and universities, and to offer loan repayment for doctors who choose to practice in underserved areas of the country.
The details of each candidates' plans are different, but they don't differ very much from each other in their mission—and that's a great sign. If they can agree that America's mothers need change, hopefully we can get closer to achieving it.