Key Takeaways from New NYS Report on Maternal Mortality

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) Maternal Mortality Review Board has released a new report, providing a detailed review of maternal deaths across the state between 2018 and 2020. Here are the findings:

Overall, the prevalence of maternal mortality in New York State remains below the national average; however, racial disparities in maternal outcomes unfortunately tell a different story. Nationally, Black mothers die at more than double the rate of White mothers. In New York, Black mothers die at five times the rate of White mothers. Black mothers in New York have a higher prevalence of maternal mortality than the national average.

The state recorded 121 pregnancy-related deaths between 2018 and 2020. The review found that almost 74% of these maternal deaths were preventable. In addition, discrimination was a likely contributing factor in almost half of maternal deaths.

It is imperative that the state continues to take action to eliminate preventable maternal deaths and improve outcomes for women of color, particularly Black women. HCFANY will continue to advocate for interventions to reduce racial disparities and overall mortality of birthing New Yorkers.

Today, Governor Hochul delivered her 2024 ‘State of the State’ address. HCFANY commends the governor for proposing sweeping protections for consumers and patients across the state. HCFANY advocacy goals are prominently featured among the governor’s proposals, including:

Medical Debt

HCFANY commends the governor for her continued commitment to protecting the over 700,000 New Yorkers that face medical debt. Governor Hochul’s proposed legislation would bring them relief by expanding eligibility for hospital financial assistance while limiting monthly payments and the interest providers can charge on medical debt. These policies are among the protections included in the Ounce of Prevention bill (S1366A/A6027A) that HCFANY has advocated for the past couple of years. In addition, the governor announced protections for low-income New Yorkers that will prevent them from being sued for medical debt. HCFANY hopes to work with the governor on another important piece of legislation (A8170/S7778) that would prohibit the state-operated hospitals from suing patients for medical debt.

Diabetes Care

We’re pleased to see Governor Hochul recognize the need to address health care costs for New Yorkers who have diabetes, which disproportionately affects people of color and rural New Yorkers. Current state law caps co-pays for insulin at $100 per member per month. The governor’s nation-leading plan would eliminate insurance co-pays for insulin for commercial plans regulated by the state. Research indicates that the elimination of cost-sharing will increase medication adherence, leading to vastly improved health outcomes and overall health care system savings. This plan will be the most expansive insulin cost-sharing prohibition in the nation — providing relief to nearly over 500,000 New Yorkers who use insulin out of 1.6 million New Yorkers who have diabetes. According to the Hochul Administration, this proposal will save New Yorkers $14 million in 2025 alone.

Better yet, the governor has proposed to eliminate cost-sharing requirements for chronic conditions and pregnancy-related visits in both the Essential Plan and Qualified Health Plans and (covering around 1.4 million New Yorkers). With the goal of promoting better management of chronic conditions, including Type 2 Diabetes, elimination of cost sharing will allow New Yorkers to access office visits, laboratory work and testing, pharmaceuticals, and other supplies and services related to their chronic condition.

Children’s Access to Care

The governor announced that New York is submitting a waiver request to the federal government to provide continuous Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for any eligible child up to six years old to ensure that no child in need misses out on critical health care services due to a lapse in health insurance coverage. Paperwork snafus would no longer result in coverage gaps. HCFANY is a proud advocate of this policy and thrilled to see the governor include improving coverage for children in her address.

Reproductive Health Care

HCFANY is enthusiastic about Governor Hochul’s proposal to expand New York State’s Paid Family Leave program to cover 40 hours of additional paid leave for pre-natal medical appointments, establishing the nation’s first statewide paid pre-natal leave benefit.

The governor will also propose legislation to enable the Commissioner of Health to issue a standing order allowing New Yorkers to access doula services without the current requirement of a recommendation from a physician.

In addition, Governor Hochul announced that she will amend the Reproductive Health Act to affirm minors’ right to receive contraceptive services and confidentially receive reproductive health care services.

Make Health Care More Affordable and Improve Access

HCFANY is thrilled that the governor announced that New York will develop state-based subsidies to ensure that Marketplace plans are more affordable—a measure that HCFANY has proposed for years.

The governor also seeks to improve access to mental health and substance use disorder care for state-regulated health plans. First, the Department of Health and the Department of Financial Services will establish a workgroup to revisit and update provider network adequacy standards. Pursuant to legislation passed last year, New York will promulgate regulations for both commercial and Medicaid insurers to strengthen network adequacy requirements for mental health and substance use disorder services. Second, Governor Hochul emphasized her commitment to improving access to mental health care offered by health insurance plans. The governor plans to improve enforcement mechanisms for mental health parity requirements, as insurance companies are legally required to provide insured individuals with access to behavioral health services that are comparable to other medical services, but too often fail to do so. To improve enforcement of parity laws, the governor proposes to fund additional staff to bring enforcement actions and introduce legislation to double fines for insurers who break the law. Further, the governor plans to increase commercial reimbursement rates for mental health services.

Unfortunately, the Governor did not include the expansion of coverage to low-income immigrants who are currently ineligible for health coverage in her State of the State address. HCFANY will continue to advocate for New York State doing so with no cost to the state using the $7.8 billion surplus that will be generated through the 1332 Waiver, pending before the federal government.

Guest post by Faith Daniels, MPH

You deserve a say in health system transactions that impact your access to healthcare. In New York and many other states, hospitals must receive approval from state regulators (and sometimes from local zoning officials) like the New York State Department of Health, before they can make major changes, such as merging with other hospitals or with large health systems, eliminating services, relocating services, opening facilities or closing  facilities entirely.

In New York and some other states, this approval process is called Certificate of Need (or CON), signifying that hospitals must demonstrate a need for the desired change or transaction proposed. We are excited to announce a major change to New York’s version of this process with the passing of the Health Equity Impact Assessment Act that has gone into effect as of June 2023. For the first time an independent assessment is required with each CON application to showcase the likely impact on people, like you, that will be directly impacted by the hospitals’ proposals  (either add, reduce or eliminate services).

You have a right to express your thoughts and concerns in this process. This community guide goes over frequently asked questions regarding the Health Equity Impact Assessment Act. If you have any questions or want to understand how you can get involved in a concerning local health system transaction, please email, Faith Daniel, MPH, and/or Mark Hannay, Community Voices for Health System Accountability co-facilitators, and Mark Hannay

HCFANY worked hard to further a series of important priorities during this year’s budget and legislative session. Read below for a review of what consumers won this legislative session and what remains a priority on the HCFANY policy agenda.

Medical Debt

Over 54,000 New Yorkers were sued by hospitals between 2015 and 2020, and nearly 1.2 million have past due medical debt on their credit reports. Health care prices in New York are some of the highest in the country.

HCFANY applauds the Hochul Administration for requiring that the State Department of Health adopt a uniform application for Hospital Financial Assistance in the budget and commends the legislature for their support of this initiative. The Ounce of Prevention Act, which included the uniform application for Hospital Financial Assistance, had several other important components that did not pass this session. HCFANY will continue to fight for policy that would align hospital financial assistance eligibility with other health care programs offered in New York; increase and clarify patient discounts; eliminate the obsolete asset test that is only applied to poor patients; extend the time to apply for hospital financial assistance to any time during the collection process; and require all providers who practice in a hospital to abide by the hospital’s financial assistance policy.

In another win for consumers, the Department of Health will adopt a Health Insurance Guaranty Fund and a prescription drug price transparency database. HCFANY thanks state policymakers for agreeing to expand the Medicaid program for working people with disabilities.

In the last few days of the legislative session, state lawmakers passed the Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act (S4907/A6275). When signed by the Governor, the legislation will prohibit medical debt from being collected by a consumer reporting agency or included in a consumer report. HCFANY and EMD campaign will follow up with the Hochul Administration to urge the Governor to sign the bill into law.

To learn more about the campaign to #EndMedicalDebt and take action, visit Burdened by large medical bills? Submit your story to


HCFANY is profoundly disappointed that the Hochul Administration’s 1332 Waiver document and state budget language exclude immigrants, backtracking on her promise last Spring. If immigrants had been included, it would have cost the state nothing, and in fact saved New York taxpayers nearly $500 million in bare bones Emergency Medicaid coverage for immigrants.

HCFANY will continue to fight for passage of legislation that serves the needs of New Yorkers who lack health care coverage because of their immigration status. Read more about Coverage4All.

Consumer Assistance

State lawmakers included $3 million in the budget for the Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP) as well as established an Ombudsman Program for People with Developmental Disabilities. These consumer assistance programs are essential to help New Yorkers navigate the health care system.

However, the wildly successful Community Health Advocates (CHA) program will experience an 9% budget cut due to the Assembly’s reduction in funding. Last year, CHA helped more than 32,000 New Yorkers use their health insurance, saving them nearly $32 million in healthcare related costs. This cut comes right when the 9 million New Yorkers will need to renew their coverage for the first time due to changed rules under the termination of the federal Public Health Emergency.