Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Meeting on Maternal Health
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
2:16 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, everyone. I want to thank the members of the Cabinet, the members of our administration for your extraordinary leadership in so many ways, and in particular on this issue, the issue of maternal health in America.
As you all know, it is something that all communities are deeply impacted by and concerned about. But this is the first time that any administration has at this level convened the Cabinet — the President’s Cabinet — to address this issue as a priority not only for our administration but as a national priority.
And I want to thank you all because the conversation we have today will be one of the many conversations that we have been having over the course of the year about how we can do better for the women of our country, for the children of our country, for the families of our country.
And what we know is that this priority will have a generational impact. What we know is that this is an issue that is measured in the context of what we know is a charge to do much better, which is that the United States of America has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any so-called developed country.
We know that in the United States of America, Black women are three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth; Native women twice as likely; rural women one and a half times likely.
What we also know is that this is an issue that is not just about healthcare, it is about treating a woman as a whole human being, understanding that if we are to expect and actually influence positive outcomes on this issue, we must see her then as a whole human being, which is why we have gathered the leaders that are here today so that we can address issues such as the issue of housing — thank you, Secretary Fudge; so we can address issues such as transportation, such as nutrition — which all have an impact on not only the experience that she will have and, therefore, her family will have, but also generational impact. Again, which is part of the nature of this issue.
Last year, our administration initiated the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action. And coming out of that, we outlined certain areas of focus that we are going to discuss today, in terms of the follow-up that has been conducted.
This is, of course, again, the first meeting of Cabinet officials, formally, where we are all coming together around the table to discuss, then, the progress that we have made, but understanding there is still so much work to be done.
And that includes what we will announce in terms of the fact that, because of the work that has happened so far, 12 states in our country are working with CMS to expand Medicaid coverage from what it has normally been, which is 2 months postpartum to 12 months postpartum, and how fantastic that is going to be when we continue to grow those numbers and what that will mean for the women and their families that are affected by this issue.
We are announcing today that we have created a new designation, which is birthing-friendly hospitals or healthcare providers where, under the leadership of Secretary Becerra and others, we are going to proactively look to how well the healthcare delivery system is doing on this very issue, and then designate those who are doing well and, by inference, point out those who have more work to do.
We are announcing today that, through CMS, the healthcare industry is going to be convened. We’re going to bring together, through the Administrator’s leadership, a convening of private sector, public sector, to talk about how we can do better.
Through HRSA, $16 million in maternal care and early childhood grants will also be facilitated as a way of, again, encouraging better practices and good outcomes.
So, this is some of the work that we are discussing today, and it is the work that has been done.
And I was with the President this morning in the Oval Office talking about many matters and many issues. And he said, “Hey, the Cabinet is coming together today on this issue. This is good stuff.”
Because we know — from the top of our government through the ranks — we all recognize that we have the capacity to do much better and that we are committed to doing much better for the families of our country.
So, again, I thank you all and I look forward to the conversation we’re about to have. And to the Cabinet members who are on the screen, thank you as well.
So, let’s begin our discussion.
Q Madam Vice President, the Brooklyn subway shooting — the suspect has been arrested. Do you have any reaction?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I applaud all of the law enforcement officials, the first responders, and the New Yorkers — the civilians who were showing such heroism yesterday, such concern for their fellow person. And we will see what comes next in terms of the investigation and consequences for what happened yesterday.
There’s no question it was tragic, but it also did demonstrate the incredible work that is being done by first responders, by law enforcement officials, and by the community — in this case, New Yorkers. So, thank you.
END 2:22 P.M. EDT