Samantha Bee looked at the American healthcare system’s dismal record on maternal healthcare on Full Frontal on Wednesday. “While American newborns are safer than ever, the women who bring them into the world are in the most danger in the decades,” Bee said.
The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal death related to childbirth and pregnancy of any developed country in the world, despite spending more per birth than any nation in the world on maternity care. In 2015, PBS reported that a woman giving birth in the U.S. is twice as likely to die as her counterpart in Saudi Arabia and three times as likely as a mother in the U.K., Bee continued.
African American women and women living in rural areas in the U.S. fare the worst. Bee cited statistics showing that maternal mortality is more than three times as high for black women as it is for white women, and the rate of maternal mortality among women in rural areas is 64% higher than the rate in big cities. In recent years, the situation appears to be getting worse as rural hospitals have been cutting maternal healthcare services. Bee stated that more than half of all rural counties did not have access to hospital obstetric services as of 2014.
The lives of mothers in rural areas appear to become collateral damage in partisan fights over Obamacare. The law offers states an expansion of medicaid, meaning that the Federal Government covers a large portion of patients’ medical costs, so more patients in rural hospitals would be covered by some kind of insurance, ultimately helping hospitals’ bottom lines. But many states run by Republicans, who have long been hostile to medicaid, opted out of the program’s expansion on principle. That’s one of the reasons that, as Bee noted, “of the 83 rural hospitals that have closed since 2010, 3/4 were in states that didn’t expand medicaid.”
The one bright spot in Bee’s story is California. The state put together a commission to study the most common causes of pregnancy-related death, identified them, and worked to put procedures in place to combat them. The maternal mortality rate in the state has fallen to one-third of the national average.
“We need to decide that rural women’s lives are worth saving at any price.”