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Ohio House approves bill allowing doula services to be covered by Medicaid

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Pregnant woman and doula at home.

A bill to expand access to doula services is moving to the Ohio Senate after receiving a near unanimous vote out of the Ohio House.

Doulas are professional labor assistants who work with pregnant people to provide physical and emotional support throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.

The proposed law, HB142, would allow Medicaid coverage for doula services.

In their support, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House emphasized the important role doulas can play for safe and healthy child births.

Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) said doulas can act as an advocate during the whole process of pregnancy – from doctor’s appointments through the first year of the baby’s life.

Brent said having a doula was once considered a commodity reserved for the wealthy, but allowing for Medicaid reimbursement can expand those services to more people.

“If we really want to fight infant mortality, if we really want to fight maternal mortality, maternal mobility, we need to make sure that everyone has access to doulas,” Brent said.

Brent noted the importance of providing more access to these types of services given the disproportionately high infant mortality rate for Black babies in Ohio.

Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout) is a co-sponsor of the bill. Along with the health benefits, Brinkman pointed to the financial benefits of allowing Medicaid coverage for doulas.

“When we look at the cost effectiveness of doula care and the reduction of preterm birth and cesarean delivery, women who receive doula support had lower preterm caesarean birth rates than Medicaid beneficiaries regionally, and women with doula care had 22% lower odds of preterm birth,” Brinkman said.

The proposed expansion of Medicaid coverage for doula services has come at a time when Democratic and Republican lawmakers are locked in a heated debate over abortion rights. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a decision – as early as this month – on a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade. If that 1973 landmark case is overturned, Ohio legislators could pass laws to ban abortions.

Brent, a supporter of abortion rights, noted the importance of providing services for healthy pregnancies if lawmakers block access to abortion.

“If Ohioans are being forced to have babies and that could be the law of the land – even though we're fighting against that – then help make it easier for people to have babies. Particularly Black women who are disproportionately affected by this. Let’s make sure that people can have healthy deliveries and we can have healthy babies,” Brent said.

The bill is now in the Ohio Senate where lawmakers are not expected to reconvene the policymaking process until this fall.

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