New York Doula Program Now Covers Anyone on Medicaid

New York State’s Doula Pilot Program, originally launched in 2018, covers all New Yorkers on Medicaid as of Jan. 1, 2024.

New York first launched its Doula Pilot Program in an effort to target maternal mortality and reduce racial disparities in health outcomes. The program has since expanded to cover all residents of New York on Medicaid, making it more accessible to pregnant people throughout the state.

A doula, also called a birth companion, birth coach, or post-birth supporter, is a person who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to pregnant people before, during, and after delivery. Doulas are not medically certified but do receive training from either a national organization or a community-based organization.

They don’t prescribe treatment or provide medical care — instead, they offer consistent and reliable support to pregnant people and help them access the care and information they need to give birth successfully and healthfully.

But doulas don’t come cheap and are often inaccessible to those who need them most, such as women of color who are more likely than white women to report mistreatment during and dissatisfaction with their birthing experiences.

New York’s plan is an attempt to curb this issue of inaccessibility. The pilot program covers up to four visits with a doula before delivery, up to four visits with a doula after delivery, and doula support during labor and delivery.

Beginning on March 1, 2019, pregnant people living in Erie County who were enrolled in Medicaid were eligible to enroll in the program. While the pilot was initially established for a two-year period, it has since been extended and expanded to be available to all New York State residents covered by Medicaid, and to include higher reimbursements for doulas — as many complained the initial rates were too low.

To date,1,108 people have participated in the pilot program, with approximately 82% of claims for prenatal visits, 6% for labor and delivery support, and 12% for postpartum visits.

Those who participate in the pilot program are sent a survey to assess their satisfaction and experience with the pilot. So far, 95% of respondents have said having a doula improved or somewhat improved their childbirth experience, and 93% of respondents have rated their doula as good or excellent.

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