Lawmakers, doctors, look to get pregnant Hoosiers better access to care

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- New ideas are being suggested to help mothers get healthy and stay healthy after giving birth.

Federal and state lawmakers from both parties met Friday to discuss ways to lower Indiana’s maternal and infant death rates.

“Anything is better than what we have now,” said Dr. Jeff Reinhardt, an OBGYN at IU Health University Hospital.

Reinhardt doesn't think U.S. Senator Todd Young’s proposal to expand broadband in order to connect expecting mothers to telemedicine is going to solve Indiana’s maternal death problem.

“Telemedicine is brand new to us,” said Reinhardt.

However, he does say it is a start. He thinks a doula or nurse of some type would be better to examine expecting mothers or mothers who recently gave birth in rural or underserved areas.

Reinhardt admits, there is not enough access to care and it is more convenient for the provider than the patient.

“And so our focus has become trying to figure out how we can better meet the needs of the patient on their turf and on their time,” said Reinhardt.

Lawmakers are focused on that too. They are starting to realize why Indiana is so poorly ranked when it comes to the number of infant and maternal deaths in the state.

“We have some areas, particularly our rural areas, and some of the underserved areas in our cities that until recently haven’t seen wages grow," said U.S. Sen. Todd Young. "So, as the economy improves, we will see improvements in this area but there are other things that need to occur.”

State Rep. Vanessa Summers is asking Sen. Young for more federal funding.

A report from the Trust for America’s Health found in 2017- Indiana received the least amount of federal dollars for public health in the nation.

The Maternal Health Caucus is also interested in Young's support in some of the proposals in Congress. Specifically, the Excellence in Maternal Health Act by Republican Indiana Congressman Larry Bucshon, as well as the Healthy MOMMIES Act and MOMMA Act.

“I would also like to deal with culture competency in the hospitals, they don’t believe African American women have pain,” said Rep. Summers.

“I think there’s no question that as providers, we need to do a better job of listening more and talking less,” said Dr. Reinhardt. “We as a provider community are starving for instruction or some pathway to help us deliver better care.”

Reinhardt said even if it isn't legislated, instruction can at least come from the patients themselves.

“We need good constructive feedback, I think it’s important for people to understand that we know that the system is a little broken and we don’t know all the answers about how to do it and that we are willing to try to adapt,” said Reinhardt.

“We really do want the best outcome for mothers and babies,” he added.

The state Maternal Health Caucus was created earlier this year and now has 36 members. Most are democrats but there are five republican lawmakers on the list.

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