Colorado lawmakers debate package of bills to offer more prenatal care

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Posted at 11:44 AM, May 15, 2021

DENVER — Over the last decade Colorado has seen an increase in expecting moms dying, and now Colorado lawmakers are debating a package of bills to offer more prenatal care.

Two years ago, Nelia Bordon went through a birthing experience she never expected. She visited a hospital in Vail to give birth to her first daughter, and after three hours of pushing, she was told doctors would need to intervene.

“I was screaming, 'Stop, no, no, no, give me a minute. Please give me a minute. What’s happening? Stop, stop,'” Bordon said.

Medical intervention was not in her birthing plan, and Bordon says her charts afterward indicated that it was not necessary but was prescribed since she was tired.

“Even after I got back on my medical charts, there was nothing wrong. There was nothing wrong. They were just in a hurry,” she said. “People talk about birth like it was supposed to be this beautiful thing, and I was like, 'That was not beautiful at all.'”

The doctor cut her open and used a vacuum extraction to get her daughter out. Bordon says the experience was traumatizing mentally and physically. Afterward, Bordon tried to file complaints with the hospital and the state but says they were dismissed without much transparency.

Complications giving birth are nothing new in Colorado.

“Our maternal mortality rate, or the percentage of folks who die from pregnancy through a year postpartum, has roughly doubled since 2008," said Erin Miller, the vice president of health initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

The differences are even more stark among minorities. A report released by the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee found deaths among Native American women within a year of giving birth was disproportionately higher than other populations.

Other data shows mortality rates among African American women across the country are three to four times higher than white women, even when they come from similar backgrounds and have similar socioeconomic standings.

Miller had a bad experience of her own after giving birth to her first child.

“I was raising concerns I wasn’t feeling good, and I was dismissed,” she said. “It turns out I had severe postpartum preeclampsia and had to go back to the hospital and all that happened with my white privilege in tact.”

She believes systematic racism can make it even more difficult for minorities to be taken seriously when raising concerns about their health or pain level.

Colorado lawmakers are debating a series of bills to try to address maternal health and some of the disparities in the health care system. Here’s an overview of those bills:

Senate Bill 9

This bill would create a reproductive health care program that provides counseling and contraceptive methods to women regardless of their citizenship status. The program would be run through Medicaid and would reduce the barriers for undocumented women who are not currently eligible for coverage.

The bill already passed the Senate and is currently being debated in the House. The vote in the Senate happened largely along party lines with Republicans voting against the measure and Democrats voting for it. If passed, it would cost the state roughly $4 million to implement in the first year and another $4 million in the second year.

Senate Bill 25

This bill would expand access to family planning services to people who make too much money to be Medicaid-eligible but too little money to be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

The bill directs the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to seek federal approval to expand family planning services to individuals earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level through Medicaid.

The services provided would include contraception, counseling, sterilization, cancer prevention screenings, infertility assessments, STD treatment and more.

The bill has some bipartisan support and two Republican cosponsors. It's already passed in the Senate and is now being debated in the House.

Senate Bill 101

This bill would extend the regulations of midwives to be able to continue to practice in the state under the Division of Professions and Occupations in the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). The regulations were set to end in September and need to be intermittently re-upped.

The bill also allows midwives to work within birthing centers and directs DORA to develop rules regarding direct-entry midwife training.

Senate Bill 193

This bill offers more protections of pregnant people during the prenatal period in several ways. It requires carriers to offer medical malpractice insurance for doctors to provide care for women who want to have a vaginal birth after having gone through a cesarean birth.

It extends the statute of limitations from two to three years for people who want to take legal actions against a doctor or hospital who they believe infringed on their rights.

It requires the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to gather and track reports of people who allege mistreatment during their pregnancy or birthing.

It offers more prenatal care for pregnant mothers who are incarcerated, as well to include education and lactation services. It also requires jails and prisons to report to lawmakers how they use restraints on pregnant inmates, among other things.

The bill was passed in the Senate with a vote among party lines and is now being debated in the House.

Senate Bill 194

This bill places new requirements on health care providers and health benefit plans and requires the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to conduct more research into perinatal health in the state.

The bill would extend pregnancy-related and postpartum services under Medicaid for a full year after the mother gives birth. Currently, Medicaid only covers care for 60 days after the baby is delivered.

“Folks who are using Medicaid or CHIP are twice as likely to die in Colorado as opposed to those using other forms of insurance and part of that is because they lose coverage period postpartum period and their insurance coverage goes away,” Miller said.

The bill also requires insurers to offer reimbursement to providers for services that promote high-quality, cost-effective care that prevents risk in subsequent pregnancies. It requires hospitals to accept transfers from homes or birthing centers.

The bill was passed in the Senate with a vote among party lines and is now being debated in the House.

For her second child, Bourdon decided to do a home birth with the help of a midwife and says the experience went much more smoothly.

“It was perfect. It was like everything I ever wanted after that first birth,” she said.

Bourdon is now working as a doula in order to be an advocate for other women who might go through a similar experience. She’s excited about the reporting provision of the new bills and even testified in committee for it.

Both Bourdon and Miller say these bills are important to protecting the health and safety of women in the state.

“I love this," Miller said. "Really puts Colorado in the great place to recapture a leadership role in these policies."