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Deb Gordon

Deborah D. Gordon has spent her career trying to level the playing field for healthcare consumers. She is co-founder of Umbra Health Advocacy, a marketplace for patient advocacy services, and co-director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, the premiere membership organization for independent advocates. She is the author of "The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money," based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Deb previously spent more than two decades in healthcare leadership roles, including chief marketing officer for a Massachusetts health plan and CEO of a health technology company. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow and a Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree. Her contributions have appeared in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, The Hill and Managed Care Magazine. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.

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December Policy Roundup

Women's Health Policy

1. The White House hosted the first Maternal Health Day of Action

On Tuesday December 7, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris hosted the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action. Harris highlighted federal efforts and recommendations to reduce maternal mortality, such as proposals to create universal screening for maternal mental health conditions, extending pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage for a full year postpartum, designating “birthing-friendly” hospitals and passing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a package of 12 proposed bills aimed at reducing racial disparities in maternal health care and outcomes. Harris also touted the $3 billion in proposed funding for maternal health that is in the Build Back Better Act, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last month but has yet to pass in the Senate.

2. HealthyWomen experts weigh in on what the Build Back Better Act means for women

In an op-ed published in The Hill, HealthyWomen Senior Advisors Martha Nolan, J.D. and Monica Mallampalli, Ph.D., endorsed the Build Back Better Act. They urged the U.S. Senate to pass the $1.75 trillion social policy bill and to preserve several key provisions that are vital to women’s health and well-being. Such provisions include paid family and medical leave, universal pre-K subsidies, childcare worker wage increases, and eligible components of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act. Together, these provisions would direct more than $1 billion to improving maternal health and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

3. The federal government issues a challenge to find innovative programs improving maternal health

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are launching the HHS Racial Equity in Postpartum Care Challenge to identify innovative ways to improve postpartum care for low-income Black and Indigenous women. Monetary prizes will be awarded for programs that address equity of postpartum care for people enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and that demonstrate that their success can be replicated or expanded. Submissions are due January 31, 2022.

4. The Protecting Moms Who Served Act becomes law

On November 30, 2021, President Biden signed the Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021 into law. It provides $15 million to support veterans’ maternal health issues and to fund a study to better understand the issues facing female veterans. This law is the first part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021.

5. U.S. News & World Reports releases its first-ever maternity ratings

For the first time, U.S. News & World Reports, which has evaluated health systems for more than 30 years, published a “Best Hospitals for Maternity Report.” The report includes 237 hospitals out of 2,700 hospitals nationwide that offer maternity care. Ratings were based on how well hospitals performed on measures such as newborn complications or rates of C-sections in low-risk people. The survey only looked at uncomplicated pregnancies and did not separate results by income, race or ethnicity.

6. Female doctors earn $2 million less over their lifetime than their male peers

Gender pay gaps are not new, but a new study quantifies just how wide earnings disparities are in the field of medicine. An analysis of salary data for more than 80,000 doctors between 2014 and 2019 showed that male physicians earned more than $2 million more over a 40-year career, or approximately 25% more than female physicians. Career earning disparities were greatest among surgeons and smallest for primary care providers and nonsurgical specialists.

7. Covid-19 increases the risk of stillbirth in pregnant women, according to the CDC

Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data showing that pregnant women are at greater risk of severe disease from Covid-19 and, tragically, Covid-19 increases the risk of stillbirth in pregnant women. The CDC studied more than 1.2 million deliveries between March 2020 and September 2021 and found more than 8,000 stillbirths. Stillbirths are rare overall but nearly twice as likely among pregnant women with Covid-19. In deliveries where the mother had Covid-19, 1.26% resulted in a stillbirth compared to 0.64% of deliveries to women without Covid-19.

8. Scientists show Covid-19 vaccines do not affect menstrual cycles

Amid questions about whether Covid-19 vaccines affect menstrual cycles, new research appears to provide an answer. In a British study of nearly 1,300 women, researchers did not find strong evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are linked to menstrual changes. The analysis did find that women using hormonal contraception were more likely to report changes in period flow immediately after getting a Covid-19 vaccine, but the authors caution that this finding could reflect reporting bias rather than a biological phenomenon. This study was presented as a preprint, which means it has not yet been peer reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

9. The federal government announces funds for family planning providers’ telehealth capabilities

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will allocate $35 million to fund telehealth capabilities among family planning providers. The funding is part of the American Rescue Plan passed earlier in the year, and is intended to help Title X federally funded reproductive health providers invest in providing telehealth options for lower-income patients.

10. The Biden administration announces funds for harm reduction to fight opioid abuse

This month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that it will fund $30 million for harm reduction strategies — which recognize illicit drug use and seek to reduce harms that drug use causes — to address opioid use disorder. Grants will support services such as needle exchanges or fentanyl test strips in the effort to reduce deaths from opioid use disorder. The CDC recently released data showing that opioid overdose deaths had reached more than 100,000 for the 12-months ending in April 2021, a nearly 30% increase over the prior year.

11. The CDC will support global efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance

This month, the CDC announced it will invest $22 million in funding for 30 organizations through two new global networks designed to fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The effort will cover more than 50 countries with programs to promote infection control, laboratory capacity to identify AMR, and development of new ways to detect and respond to AMR.

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