‘Momnibus’ maternal health bill moves forward in Kentucky legislature

Published 10:40 am Friday, February 9, 2024

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By Sarah Ladd

Kentucky Lantern

The maternal health bill dubbed “Momnibus” passed out of the House Committee on Health Services Thursday and can move to the floor for a full vote.

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Momnibus — or House Bill 10 — came out of a bipartisan summer working group of female lawmakers who looked into Kentucky’s dismal maternal mortality and how to address it. Male lawmakers have since signed on as co-sponsors. It passed with 15 yes votes, zero no votes and two passes.

HB10 would, among other things, incentivize Kentuckians to get prenatal care by adding pregnancy to the list of qualifying life events for health insurance coverage. It would also launch a hotline, staffed with a psychiatrist and psychologist, that medical providers can call if they’re serving a patient with mental health needs.

Primary sponsor Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, cited national data showing Kentucky’s high rates of maternal mortality as her inspiration for the bill.

A 2023 March of Dimes report showed the state once again had high maternal mortality, which was worse for Black Kentuckians. The state has a maternal mortality rate of 38.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, higher than the national rate of 23.5 deaths per 100,000 live births.

“Those initiatives that are included in this legislation will address the high rate of substance use disorders, which are now the number one reason that Kentucky women die in the first year following childbirth, a lack of access to prenatal care, a lack of access to mental health treatment, a lack of education,” Moser told committee members.

The bill previously referred to “pregnant individuals,” but Moser said Thursday that the language will now read “pregnant women.”

Rep. Rachel Roarx, a Louisville Democrat, expressed concern that this language change would “exclude” some people who have a “gender marker of a different sex” but are pregnant.

“At this point in time, women are the only persons who can conceive and carry a pregnancy to term,” Moser replied. She added that in such a case, the person in question “would become a woman.”

Other changes to the bill include the addition of remote patient monitoring via telehealth as a billable service, which Moser said will allow patients who need them to get remote ultrasounds.