Indiana News

Doulas help pregnant moms; new law offers Medicaid coverage

(WISH Photo, File)

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — Pregnant women covered by Medicaid in Indiana now have a new option for childbirth.

A new state law now covers doula services. The word “doula” means “woman who serves.” A doula is not a doctor but rather someone who gives continuous, nonmedical, sympathetic comfort to the mother before, during and after she gives birth.

Being a doula is a labor of love for Tamrha Richardson, owner of Circle City Doulas. “It’s both stressful and rewarding.”

Richardson has been a doula for 12 years.

“You really can’t plan your life as a doula. You’re always on call. We live our lives as we live our lives, but things can stop at any moment when a baby’s being born,” Richardson said.

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In recent months, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill that allows Medicaid reimbursement for doula services.

“In counties that have no access to care for a hospital in their county that maternity services are provided, to even lower-income people that maybe can’t afford the certain kind of care that other people can, this is super, superimportant for Medicaid clients,” Richardson said.

Richardson said she thinks the new law could help lower Indiana’s infant and maternal mortality rates “by helping to educate clients, because that’s essentially the role of a doula.”

Richardson said doula services average from $600- $1,200 in central Indiana.

“I don’t know how to help Medicaid clients access this law. As a provider, I should know ‘OK, you have Medicaid, this is how we go about getting this service paid for.’ I have searched online. I have looked, I have read the law. I still don’t know,” Richardson said.

Two state officials issued statements about the new law.

“We’re pleased the General Assembly shares Governor Holcomb‘s commitment to improving the state’s infant mortality rates and has underscored the important role that doulas play for many new moms. As this legislation was moving forward, we recognized that the opportunity to fund doulas exists within our new community health worker benefit. Therefore this new law will not require any new funding. The OB Navigator program will also make use of the Community Health Worker benefit, which was established in 2018.”

Jim Gavin, Director of Communications for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration

“As of July 1, my legislation to provide Medicaid coverage for doula services has been in operation. Doula services have been incorporated into the OB navigator program through the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and the Department of Health to make doulas a part of the network available to expectant mothers. Although the legislature declined to fund this important service, Medicaid will still reimburse anyone who has completed the Community Health Worker Certification and is working as a doula. Our next steps include communicating with the state that doulas are now an acceptable part of the program and inform folks on how to receive the training required to become a doula. I’m eager for Hoosiers to begin taking advantage of this addition to Medicaid as it is proven to lower infant and maternal mortality rates, both of which are high in the state of Indiana, especially in communities with a large minority population.”

Indiana state Sen. Jean Breaux, an Indianapolis Democrat