New Bill Would Mandate Free Mental, Substance Use Care for Perinatal People

Behavioral health-related issues, including suicide deaths and drug overdoses, are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., accounting for over 22% of these losses.

A new piece of legislation is on the table to help mitigate these statistics.

The legislation, called “the Mental Health and Making Access More Affordable (MAMA) Act,” would require insurance plans to provide mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services at no cost to plan beneficiaries during their pregnancy and one year postpartum.

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“Making substance use treatment and mental care more accessible and affordable is critical to tackling the maternal health crisis and protecting the health of mothers and their children,” Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) said in a statement. “With this legislation, we can help remove cost as a barrier that prevents too many mothers from seeking the care and treatment they need.”

Specifically, commercial and government insurance plans that offer mental health care and substance use care would be required to cover mental health or SUD services with no cost-sharing to beneficiaries from the onset of when they begin receiving regular pregnancy care to one year after the last day of a person’s pregnancy.

The MAMA Act would also add a continuity of care requirement where a patient’s plan network status changes.

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While about one in eight women who recently had a live birth report symptoms of postpartum depression, only about 15% of women diagnosed with postpartum depression receive treatment. 

People of color are even less likely than white women to initiate postpartum mental health care. 

“We also know that going without mental health care exacerbates existing inequities among women with the lowest incomes and women of color,” Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement about the MAMA Act. “It’s time to recognize that maternal mental health support is not a luxury, but an essential human right.

Substance use is also a rising issue among perinatal people, with pregnant and postpartum drug overdose mortality increasing by approximately 81% between 2017 and 2020. 

Perinatal behavioral health has also been at the forefront of The White House’s strategic plans. The Biden-Harris administration recently announced moves to better support maternal mental health, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releasing a national strategy to address what it called the public health crisis of maternal mental health and substance use issues. 

Specifically, the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health called for the integration of perinatal mental health and substance use care across medical, community and social systems.

The need for women’s health has also driven behavioral health dealmaking. In 2023, Talkspace and LifeStance partnered with different digital menopause care providers to expand perinatal care services to their patients. 

Recently, Curio Digital, a digital therapeutic company specializing in women’s needs, partnered with ​​the Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Health and Welfare Fund, a multi-employer trust fund. The FDA recently granted 510(k) clearance to Curio’s prescription-only digital therapeutic designed to treat mild to moderate postpartum depression.

Additionally, FamilyWell Health, a behavioral health company integrating mental health services into OB/GYN practices, raised $4.3 million in seed financing in February.