Health Committee advances Cephas bill to strengthen doula services in Pa.

HARRISBURG, April 17 – The PA House Health Committee today approved legislation authored by state Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., that would extend Medicaid coverage to doula services in the state.

Under Cephas’ bill (H.B. 1608), Medicaid would reimburse certified doulas for providing childbirth education and support services, including physical and emotional support, during pregnancy, labor and delivery and up to one year postpartum.

“Research has shown that doula support leads to improved birth outcomes, including reduced rates of cesarean sections, shorter labor durations and higher rates of breastfeeding initiation. By providing continuous support throughout and after pregnancy, doulas contribute to safer and more positive birth experiences for mothers," Cephas said.

"While some moms can afford doula services without insurance or have insurance that covers it, moms who receive their vital pregnancy care through Medicaid are not so lucky. This leads to a vast inequality in care for women who are already statistically at risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, with Black women at the highest risk of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity compared to other racial and ethnic groups. This legislation would give these mothers a proven network of support needed to produce better mental and physical health outcomes during their birthing journey.” 

The bill also would establish a Doula Advisory Board to set standards and requirements for doulas practicing in Pennsylvania. The board would include a diverse membership, including practicing providers and representatives from various state agencies. 

The Shapiro administration announced in March that it was expanding the state’s Medicaid program to provide a path for doulas to become certified providers. Cephas said her bill would put it into law so that future administrations could not backtrack from progress being made in addressing the state’s maternal health crisis.  

Cephas’ bill is part of the Pennsylvania MOMNIBUS legislative package of eight bills to improve maternal health outcomes.

The Health Committee also approved legislation (H.B. 2097) in the package by Rep. La’Tasha D. Mayes, D-Allegheny, that would expand Medicaid coverage of blood pressure monitors for pregnant and postpartum enrollees.

Cephas said she is grateful that the bills were brought up for consideration during Black Maternal Health Week, which was founded in 2018 by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and held annually from April 11-17 to promote awareness, advocacy and action around the experience of Black birthing. Cephas, Mayes and Rep. Gina Curry, D-Delaware, are co-chairs of the Pennsylvania Black Maternal Health Caucus, which celebrated and observed the week with several events at the Capitol and in legislative districts throughout the state.

The bills now go to the full House for consideration. More information on the Pennsylvania Black Maternal Health Caucus can be found at