U.S. Senators Katie Britt, Maggie Hassan, Susan Collins, Tina Smith Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Access to Maternal Health Care

April 3, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 3, 2024 — U.S. Senators Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) today announced the introduction of the Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act, which would offer support for rural health care facilities to provide urgent obstetric care. 

“I’m proud to join Senator Hassan in leading this important bipartisan legislation to support moms and empower rural hospitals with the resources needed to provide quality care to women in their communities,” said Senator Britt. “Alabama families depend on local health care providers for a wide range of services and procedures, and the Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act would help ensure that more hardworking people across America can thrive, no matter their zip code.”

“Regardless of where they live, expecting moms deserve access to high-quality care to protect their health and the health of their babies – during their pregnancy, during labor, and after they give birth,” said Senator Hassan. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will provide targeted support for rural health care facilities in New Hampshire and across the country through equipment, training, and other resources. I will keep working to get more rural Granite State moms the care that they need.”

“The closure of labor and delivery units in rural Maine and throughout the nation is an urgent issue that threatens the health and safety of mothers and babies,” said Senator Collins. “By creating new opportunities to improve obstetric readiness in rural communities through skills training, workforce development, and telehealth partnerships, this bipartisan legislation would help reduce care gaps and better ensure that more rural Maine communities have access to the maternal care they need.”

“No matter where new and expecting moms live, they should be able to access quality health care. But right now, we know that too many women in rural areas don’t have a nearby hospital with birthing services,” said Senator Smith. “I’ve heard from Minnesotans who have to drive hours, sometimes in dangerous conditions like Minnesota blizzards, just to get to care at a hospital. It is time we address the health disparities that prevent rural families from accessing quality care they can afford.”

The Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act would help rural hospitals and doctors prepare to handle the obstetric emergencies that come through their doors by:

  • Creating training programs to help non-specialists respond to emergencies like labor and delivery
  • Providing federal grants for rural facilities to buy better equipment to train for and handle these emergencies
  • And developing a pilot program for teleconsultation services, so that a doctor at a rural facility helping an expecting or postpartum mother facing an emergency can quickly consult with maternal health care experts

In Alabama, over a third of the state’s 67 counties are classified as “maternity care deserts,” areas without access to birthing facilities or maternity care providers. Last fall, three Alabama hospitals announced closures of their labor and delivery departments, leaving both Shelby and Monroe counties without labor and delivery services. Additionally, Alabama has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation at 64.63 deaths per 100,000 births.

Senator Britt has made health care a top legislative priority during her first 15 months in office. Last December, she joined a bipartisan group of 59 of her Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2023. This bill would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors, especially important in rural areas.

Last year, Senator Britt cosponsored two pieces of bipartisan legislation to help all Alabamians access insulin. They include the Affordable Insulin Now Act of 2023, which would cap the price of insulin for all patients, including those who are uninsured, at $35 for a 30-day supply; and the Improving Needed Safeguards for Users of Lifesaving Insulin Now (INSULIN) Act of 2023, which would comprehensively address the skyrocketing costs of insulin, removing barriers to care and making it more accessible for millions more Americans.

Additionally, Senator Britt, along with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), introduced the Youth Mental Health Research Act to create a national Youth Mental Health Research Initiative to guide long-term mental health care efforts, better target preventive interventions for those at risk of developing mental health challenges, and improve treatments for children.

Senator Britt also reintroduced the Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD) Act with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in September of last year. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would eliminate copays and other out-of-pocket expenses for breast cancer diagnostic tests, making them more accessible and affordable.

Last month, Senator Britt secured significant funding in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to modernize and upgrade medical equipment and rural health services in Alabama. This funding includes $2.6 million for Helen Keller Hospital to replace generators and help more Alabamians receive excellent, high-quality medical care; over $3.9 million for the City of Talladega to support rural emergency services; $2 million for needed medical equipment at Atmore Community Hospital; and $2.5 million in directed spending for the Huntsville Hospital Health System to purchase additional ambulances to serve counties across North Alabama.