The Business of Medicine and Black Maternal Health and Death

Until our healthcare system reverts back into a noble profession and not a profit-by-any-means business, regretfully, a disproportionate number of mothers and babies will continue to die.

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This week, as thousands of Black women commemorate Black Maternal Health, Becker’s Hospital Review reported that one of the leading U.S. health plans made an astounding  $5 billion profit in the first quarter of 2021, in the middle of a pandemic no less.

Shareholders are happy. The CEO is happy. The company’s employees are happy because they will all receive big, fat bonus checks, but do you know who isn’t happy? The families of 700 mothers who die each year from preventable, pregnancy-related deaths.

The business of medicine is killing us. According to CDC, in 1990, our pre-managed care healthcare system had a maternal mortality rate of 8 deaths out of 100,000. Thirty years later, the rate has more than doubled to 17.4 per 100,000 in the setting of managed care. 

The infiltration of managed care eliminated the three-day stay for vaginal deliveries and five-day length of stay for cesarean sections in order to cut costs.

After a vaginal birth, mothers are booted out of the hospital after 24 hours (pre-pandemic).  Women who had C-sections leave in 48 hours. Is it any wonder that 50% of pregnancy-related deaths occur at home?

Does implicit bias and racism contribute to the death of black and brown mothers? Absolutely, because they receive inadequate care. However, if we do not move the dial beyond the discussion of racism, we will never get to the root cause of the problem or, more importantly, fix it.

Until our healthcare transforms back into a noble profession and not a profit-by-any-means business, regretfully, a disproportionate number of mothers and babies will continue to die.

“He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” MLK.

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