(The Center Square) – Arkansas lawmakers accepted an interim study proposal Friday to look at creating a universal newborn home nurse visitation program.
Members of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth, together with the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs, approved the study proposed by Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley.
The fiscal note for the original bill estimated the cost of the program would be $2.3 million, with the state’s share being $565,687.
The cost was projected using the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for that fiscal year, leaving the fiscal impact in future years dependent on “multiple factors,” the fiscal note said.
“This was a bill that I had last session and I presented to Public Health,” Mayberry said. “We never took a vote on it. I took it down because I was going to make the impact even smaller. I would appreciate the opportunity to just continue the discussion on the newborn home visiting program and allow other members outside of Public Health to hear some of it. I have some folks who are willing to travel from North Carolina from Family Connects who are willing to come here and share more information on this fabulous program to help new moms and new babies.”
The newborn home nurse visitation program would offer nurse visitation services in every county in Arkansas for all newborn infants and parents, including adoptive parents and parents experiencing a stillbirth, within the first 30 days after birth, according to the bill.
The visits would be voluntary, meaning parents could refuse and receive no negative consequences for declining to participate.
“Like prenatal care, the postpartum healthcare visit that typically occurs six weeks after childbirth is considered important to a new parent’s health. However, for a woman who has given birth, the six-week postpartum visit punctuates a period devoid of formal or informal support for the woman,” the bill said. “Additionally, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as many as 40% of women who have given birth in the United States do not attend a postpartum visit.”
The program would also provide an opportunity for two more additional visits within the first three months of a newborn’s life.
Health benefit plans offered in Arkansas would be required to provide coverage for the services under the program and people covered by Medicaid would also receive coverage, according to the original bill.
It also called for an assessment of the program through data collection to improve effectiveness.
The purpose of the newborn visitation program would be to remove barriers for access to postpartum care, ensure women can receive a cost-free home visit with a registered nurse, and improve outcomes, among other things.