Protecting Infants & Mothers in New York: The Democratic Plan

New York governor Kathy Hochul has proposed that pregnant women receive 40 hours of paid leave to attend prenatal medical visits. The recommendation was made following the start of the state’s legislative session this week.

The goal of the Democratic plan, which would require approval from the state Legislature, is to increase access to high-quality prenatal care and reduce the number of mother and baby fatalities in New York, which disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income areas.

The number of newborns that pass away before becoming one year old in the United States is higher than in other affluent nations. Experts have ascribed this discrepancy to a number of factors, including poverty and subpar prenatal care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2023 that the U.S. rate increased by 3% in 2022, marking the biggest increase in the previous 20 years.

During an event held at a Brooklyn hospital on Thursday, Hochul expressed his optimism that the work being done in New York will set a higher standard for the rest of the country. “Early access to consistent medical care makes all the difference.”

The paid family leave law in New York is presently only in effect following a baby’s birth. The governor pointed out that if adopted, New York would be the first to create statewide coverage for prenatal care.

A June research by the state Department of Health examined the years 2016 to 2019 and found that in New York, the death rate for Black babies was 2.8 times greater than that of White or Hispanic infants.

A portion of the racial differences in newborn health are caused by the fact that individuals of color are less likely to undergo standard medical procedures and generally get treatment of worse quality, according to the research.

Democratic state assemblywoman Michaelle Solages expressed support for the concept but expressed concern about possible changes to other aspects of the current paid family leave program.

“In the end, the program doesn’t have an infinite amount of money,” Solages stated. “We must use caution while proposing policies. To ensure that all families have access to the programs, we must enhance and change certain aspects of them.

For New Yorkers registered in certain health plans, Hochul’s proposal also waives co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses for pregnancy-related benefits. To lower the incidence of newborn fatalities linked to dangerous sleep environments, she also wants the state to support the provision of free portable cribs for low-income New Yorkers.

Furthermore, she is suggesting that the state implement fresh programs to lower the number of needless cesarean sections—which, according to the governor, some physicians do more frequently than is advised.

Democratic state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s spokesman, Mike Whyland, stated that they will examine the plan. The legislative session in New York started on Wednesday and will finish in June.

Maysoon Khan is a Statehouse News Initiative corps member with the Associated Press/Report for America. A nonprofit national service initiative called Report for America deploys journalists in local newsrooms to write stories on underreported topics. X was originally known as Twitter. Follow Maysoon Khan there.

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