Six Pennsylvania Counties Classify as “Maternal Health Deserts”

According to a new March of Dimes report, which uses data from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, six of the commonwealth’s 67 counties—Cameron, Forest, Greene, Juniata, Sullivan, and Wyoming—qualify as maternal health deserts because “there were no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birth centers, no OB/GYN and no certified nurse midwives. “That is completely intolerable,” Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said in a statement, adding that more than 105,000 women between 18-44 years of age live in counties with little or no obstetric care. Nationally, the report found that more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in maternity care deserts with Medicaid covering nearly 50% of births in maternity care deserts, compared to 40.1% in counties with full maternity care access. Pennsylvania has extended Medicaid coverage to pregnant persons as part of the American Rescue Plan’s optional Medicaid expansion, increasing the length of coverage from 60 days to one year. The overall maternal mortality rate in Pennsylvania is 82 deaths per 100,000 live births. For Black Pennsylvanians, who are already disproportionately impacted by poverty and have less access to adequate health care, the mortality rate is 163 per 100,000 live births, according to the PA Department of Health.