Youngkin to reestablish maternal health data task force, after vetoing bill that would have done so

by | Jun 28, 2024 | ALLFFP, Health & Wellness, state

BY Charlotte Rene Woods
Virginia Mercury

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced a new executive order to reestablish a maternal health data task force a little over a month after vetoing legislation designed to accomplish the same goal.

Executive Order 32, which Youngkin signed Wednesday, reestablishes the Maternal Health Data and Quality Measures Task Force, which was first established in 2021 and ran through the end of last year.

The goal was, and is, to collect maternal health data that can inform future policy. However, the report with recommendations from the previous task force was not published in time for the 2024 legislative session.

So, Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) filed House Bill 781 this year to reestablish the board, and it cleared both chambers with bipartisan support. Youngkin then pursued a shorter substitute, which Herring said “gutted” her bill.

Youngkin’s proposal also removed the term “birthing people.” Pregnancy is most common in cisgender women. Meanwhile, for transgender and nonbinary people who are pregnant, finding competent medical care can be a challenge, PBS News reported.

When the legislature reconvened in May, they rejected Youngkin’s proposal and he vetoed the bill.

“Unfortunately, the proposed legislation politicized an otherwise noncontroversial issue,” Youngkin’s veto statement said then. “I offered an amendment to address this, but unfortunately the General Assembly did not adopt it.”

Herring feels it was Youngkin doing the politicizing of an otherwise bipartisan bill.

“It seems like this is truly being politicized by the executive order,” Herring said.

A spokeswoman for Youngkin did not respond when asked if Youngkin’s veto statement was in reference to Herring’s inclusion of “birthing people.”

The new task force will include various health care and maternal health care officials such as OB-GYN doctors, nurses and midwives, as well as representatives from various state agencies and nonprofits related to health care information.

“I don’t know who he’s going to appoint but he did keep some of my structure for the task force in the executive order,” Herring said.

Unlike his shorter substitute, Youngkin’s executive order is longer and includes details from Herring’s bill such as examining the quality of care and barriers that prevent collection and reporting of timely maternal health data.

The cohort will develop recommendations for standard quality metrics on maternal care and report findings to both the governor and state legislature by Dec. 1, 2025. There is also a Dec. 1 deadline this year for the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to provide a report with recommendations for ways to address maternal mental health and substance use issues to help eliminate disparities in care.

Meanwhile, the previous task force’s existing proposals are to mandate a year of postpartum coverage for commercial insurance plans, identify reimbursements to incentivize social determinants of health screenings, and to develop a fetal and infant mortality review team — a bill from this year that was tabled until next year.

The infant mortality review team was among a slate of maternal health bills this session, carried primarily by Black women lawmakers; while some advanced, others were vetoed by Youngkin.

Herring said in a Thursday interview that she’s been in touch with the administration about composition of the new task force. This week, she spoke with John Littel, who is Youngkin’s new chief of staff and former head of the department of health and human resources.

It’s not yet clear when the new task force will be up and running or if previous members will rejoin it and a representative from the state health department could not be reached by the time of this publication.

Despite divergence on details of the task force, lawmakers in both parties have worked on various measures to enhance maternal health outcomes in recent years. Youngkin has supported maternal health hubs as part of the Partnership for Petersburg initiative. He also signed a bill this year to require health insurance coverage for doulas.

“Mothers play an incomparable role in the lives of their children and families, and it is imperative that we do the necessary, collective work to ensure they are receiving the care they deserve,” Youngkin said in a release announcing his order. “This begins with knowing where we need to improve, so that we can better maternal health policies throughout the Commonwealth and promote the well-being of women, children and families.”

(This story originally appeared in the Virginia Mercury and is being republished here with permission.)

Share This