2023 to debut CMS hospital designation as “birth-friendly”

The agency announced on Wednesday that hospitals may begin receiving birth-friendly designation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the fall of 2023.

The appointment will initially be based on the Structural Indicator of Maternal Morbidity of the Hospital Accountability Program. In the future, hospitals will need to meet expanded criteria, according to a CMS press release.

The reporting period for the incidence rate began in October, and hospitals will report data to CMS for the first time in May. The metric requires hospitals to confirm whether they are participating in a state or national collaborative program to improve the quality of perinatal care and whether they have implemented safety measures or packages to manage birth complications such as bleeding and sepsis.

“Everyone deserves access to quality health care, especially if they start a family,” Health and Human Services Minister Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “At HHS, we are proposing a birth-friendly hospital designation and are working with states to provide postpartum care throughout the year to ensure all parents get the best care they need—before, during, and after pregnancy.”

The American Hospital Association questioned the long-term value of the measure when CMS first proposed it last year and urged the agency to develop more robust measures for material morbidity in the future.

“We believe that hospitals could make more progress — and that CMS and the public would be better informed about this progress — if CMS instead implemented measures that more directly assessed the quality of maternal care. The proposed measure reflects participation in activities with a clear benefit to hospitals and patients, but is not really an indicator of effectiveness,” the AHA wrote in a comment. letter according to the suggested rule.

This fall, CMS plans to release data on structural indicators of maternal morbidity for 2021, and next fall, the first group of hospitals designated as “delivery-friendly” will be named. More information about this initiative will be included in the proposed Hospital Inpatient Payment System 2023 rule, which is expected in the coming weeks.

The agency maintains the “birth-friendly” designation to help patients choose hospitals committed to safe maternal health.

Since 2000, maternal mortality has been on the rise in the United States, according to a Commonwealth Fund report. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24 out of 100,000 live births in the United States ended in maternal death in 2020. The rate was much higher for black women, with more than 55 out of 100,000 dying in childbirth.

The announcement came shortly before Black Maternal Health Week, during which Vice President Kamala Harris will host the first maternal health meeting with cabinet ministers and agency heads.

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