A bill introduced by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin that would expand the State Medicaid program to include coverage for doula care passed the full Legislature Monday.
A doula is a trained professional who provides physical, emotional, and educational support, but not medical care, to mothers before, during, and after childbirth.
The bill, A-1662, cleared the Legislature on Monday with final approval by the Assembly, 69-6-4. It now awaits further consideration by Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Many women are finding comfort in the support of a doula during their pregnancies,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “A doula provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. Their care has often been said to help reduce pregnancy complications. It is critically important for doula care, which has increasingly grown in popularity for pregnant women, to be covered under Medicaid.”
Research shows that support from a doula is associated with lower caesarian section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, decreased use of pain medication, shorter labor hours, and higher scores on the Apgar test, which is an assessment given to newborns soon after birth.
The bill would allow the Commissioner of Human Services to establish regulations to implement the bill, including eligibility rules and coverage limitations. The Commissioner may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance including, but not limited to, the submission of a state plan amendment to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as may be necessary for the implementation of this act.
To obtain federal approval, the Commissioner of Human Services will have to apply for such State plan amendments or waivers as may be necessary to implement the provisions of the bill and to secure federal financial participation for State Medicaid expenditures under the federal Medicaid program.
The full Assembly also passed resolution AJR-184 76-0-0, sponsored by Assemblywomen Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Shanique Speight and Angela McKnight, which designates March 22 to March 28 of each year as “Doula Appreciation Week” in New Jersey.