A new pilot program in Erie County and parts of Kings County could bring more doulas into the healthcare system to help deliver babies.
The state Department of Health said the pilot, which will expand its Medicaid program to cover doula services, will help address maternal mortality and reduce racial disparities in health outcomes. It will also provide training, outreach and education efforts.
“While New York has made progress to ensure all women have access to quality, affordable healthcare to prevent maternal mortality, a vast racial disparity still exists that requires creative solutions and bold action,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
A doula is a non-medical birth coach who assists a woman before, during or after childbirth if needed. The use of doulas has been shown to increase positive health outcomes, including reducing birth complications for the mother and the baby. Both Erie and Kings counties have the state’s highest number of Medicaid births and maternal and infant mortality rates.
LuAnne Brown, CEO of the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network Inc., said the idea likely stems from recent media reports on maternal mortality and racial equity. The program will also expand workforce opportunities for health care professionals, she said.
“I actually have been training my staff to be doulas over the last few years because I thought it was a natural extension of their jobs plus it provided them an opportunity for career development,” Brown said. “It may have an impact on the workforce because more people may train to be doulas.”
Expanding the program to allow Medicaid reimbursement will provide additional financial incentive for health care professionals: With no reimbursement from insurance companies, working doulas generally are paid out-of-pocket by mothers, with fees averaging $600-$800.
The DOH will enroll doulas in both counties from November through January.
Doulas trained must apply for Medicaid billing numbers to track outcomes, with the state paying per experience. The reimbursement will encompass three prenatal visits, four postpartum visits as well as labor and delivery. Reimbursement levels were calculated based on a percentage of what doctors and midwives receive, Brown said.
More information is available here.