May 10, 2019— For those of us dedicated to safety-net hospitals and the patients they serve, Mother’s Day is about much more than homemade cards and breakfast in bed. It’s also about recognizing that honoring mothers means ensuring access to maternal health, especially for women living in underserved areas.
The issue of maternal health is one that is close to the heart for hospitals participating in the 340B drug pricing program. For many of those hospitals, 340B savings enable them to provide more needed maternal health services to patients living with low incomes and those in rural communities.
340B savings help hospitals provide a wide spectrum of services that are needed for prenatal, pregnancy, and postnatal care. For example, research shows that 340B hospitals are 49 percent more likely to provide obstetrics services than non-340B hospitals and 48 percent more likely to offer birthing or labor delivery rooms. Offering these services locally is especially crucial to pregnant women in areas where the 340B provider is the closest hospital for many miles around.
One safety-net hospital that exemplifies such a commitment to maternal health access is Boone County Hospital in Boone, Iowa. The hospital serves a rural community where the next-closest hospital providing similar services is roughly 60 miles away – a long way to travel for a woman who is in labor or encountering complications. The hospital’s pharmacy staff report that 340B savings help support the delivery of about 150 babies annually in the provider’s labor and delivery unit. Their 340B savings are particularly important because health coverage such as Medicaid typically does not cover the full cost of providing obstetrics and birthing services.
And this is not just a rural issue. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Medicaid supported 43 percent of all U.S. births in 2016, making it the largest single payer for pregnancy-related services. 340B hospitals serve a significantly higher percentage of Medicaid patients, and those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, than non-340B hospitals.
Of course, a commitment to maternity care also means caring for mothers and babies after birth. Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, Va., provides a great example of this patient mission. The safety-net hospital is in a Southeastern Virginia community that has higher percentages than the national average of mothers with late or no prenatal care, preterm births, and babies born with low birth weights. 340B program savings help Riverside support a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that many of these mothers need once their babies are born.
The community served by Riverside also has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, a situation that can be particularly risky for pregnant women and infants. That’s why Riverside Regional Medical Center offers care through the South-Eastern Family Project, a comprehensive day and residential center where mothers and children can stay together as the moms receive the treatment they need to become and stay healthy. 340B savings are helping to support the project, which costs more to run than the payments Riverside receives for the care.
As we celebrate our moms this Mother’s Day, let’s also join our safety-net hospitals by taking time to reflect on how we fully honor all mothers – and mothers-to-be. And a big part of that means giving them the care they need regardless of where they live or their personal circumstances.