Baldwin and Moore sponsor bill to require mental health care for pregnant women, new moms - TAI News
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Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) speaks during a meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A pair of bills introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives by Democratic lawmakers, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Gwen Moore, would make it easier for people to access mental health and substance use disorder care during and after pregnancy. Advocates say the law is much needed.

On May 15, Baldwin, Moore, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire, and Rep. Lucy Bath of Georgia jointly announced the introduction of the Mental Health and Making Access More Affordable (MAMA) Act, which would require that any health insurance plan that covers mental health and substance use services do so without charging any co-pay during pregnancy and the first year after.

“Wisconsin is in a maternal mortality crisis, and we need to do more to support new and expecting mothers and their babies,” Baldwin said in a press release. “I’m proud to lead this effort to help more new mothers get the mental health support and substance use disorder treatment they need to stay healthy and set themselves and their babies up for success down the road.”

Moore said: “Making substance use treatment and mental care more accessible and affordable is critical to tackling the maternal health crisis and protecting the health of mothers and their children. With this legislation, we can help remove cost as a barrier that prevents too many mothers from seeking the care and treatment they need. I am thrilled to partner with my colleagues on this much-needed legislation.” 

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan signed on as one of 20 original co-sponsors. No Republicans have yet done so.

In a separate fact sheet, Moore noted that the covered conditions pose a great risk to both women and babies, but that few are able to get help: “Perinatal depression affects between 10 – 20% of pregnant and postpartum women in the United States. And the situation is much worse for women living in poverty – up to 50% of whom suffer from a mental health disorder. But, less than 15% of pregnant and postpartum women receive treatment.”

The bill has been endorsed by an array of advocacy groups, including the National Partnership for Women & Families. 

“The lack of access to affordable mental and behavioral health care is a debilitating barrier for too many mothers and families,” said the group’s president, Jocelyn Frye. “We also know that going without mental health care exacerbates existing inequities among women with the lowest incomes and women of color. It’s time to recognize that maternal mental health support is not a luxury, but an essential human right.”

Other backers include the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and Meta House, a Milwaukee nonprofit substance use disorder treatment provider.

The Senate and House versions of the bill were referred to committee, where they await action.

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