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Delayed Texas maternal mortality report to be released next week, state says

A woman holds a toddler in her arms in a dinning room
Reynaldo Leal
The Texas Tribune
Sable Moya holds her son, Luke, in their home in McAllen, Texas.

A long-delayed maternal mortality report will be released to legislators and the public as early as next week, Dr. Jennifer Shuford, interim commissioner for the Department of State Health Services, said on Friday.

The report was due Sept. 1, but at the last meeting of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee meeting, the state said it would be delayed to allow a full review of cases from 2019.

The committee has now reviewed 140 of the 147 pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths from 2019. At the meeting Friday, committee members said that additional review did not change the findings or recommendations they planned to put forward.

The task force was created by the Legislature in 2013 to address a persistent problem in Texas: the above-average rates and disproportionate impact of pregnancy- and childbirth-related illness and death.

In 2013, the year the committee was first formed, Black women made up 11% of those giving live births but 31% of maternal deaths. The forthcoming report reflects similar disparities, said Dr. Manda Hall, who represents the Department of State Health Services on the committee. The analysis also found that, once again, nearly all of these deaths were preventable.

Nakeenya Wilson, a community advocate on the committee, said Friday that she was glad the report would be released. But she condemned the delay, which many have called politically motivated.

“Suppressing and withholding data ... is dishonorably burying these women,” Wilson said. “In my opinion and the opinion of many of my colleagues, there was no need for a delay.”

Forthcoming findings

Committee chair Dr. Carla Ortique said that the report will reflect many of the same findings and recommendations as previous iterations.

As in the previous report, the committee’s top recommendation will be to expand postpartum Medicaid for a full year. During the last session, the Texas House of Representatives voted in favor of this recommendation, but the Senate knocked it down to six months of coverage.

On Friday, House Speaker Dade Phelan said on Twitter this remains a top priority.

The report is also expected to include recommendations about improving the work of the committee itself. Ortique said their work has been “impacted by certain things that slow the process,” and that they are considering options to accelerate and improve the process of reviewing cases and publishing findings.

Wilson said she was hoping to see more members added to the committee, including additional community members representing more diverse backgrounds. Dr. Carey Eppes, an OB/GYN in Houston, said she hoped the committee could review cases in a more timely and transparent manner to help hospitals that are currently handling these cases incorrectly.

“We know that if we’re looking at 2019 data, that has gone on for another three years, and that is also heartbreaking,” Eppes said.

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