Doulas say new Medicaid policy supports their work, but not them

Women and infants’ health advocates around Michigan are celebrating a new policy that will allow pregnant people covered by Medicaid to pay for the services of a

doula. The policy, enacted Jan. 1, puts Michigan on the list of just a handful of states that cover doula services, which have been shown to improve birth

outcomes and decrease health and racial disparities. But doulas themselves, severely disappointed in the reimbursement rate set by the state, say while the policy may be good for

pregnant people, it’s unsatisfactory for them. “We will not have the ability to support the people who need it the most,” said Melinda Britton, owner of Doulas

of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula, who says the state’s reimbursement rate will force doulas to make choices about how many Medicaid clients they can afford to take

on. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. “I think it’s beautiful that … they’re seeing the value to incorporate

doulas into that support for families. I just would love to see them also support the doulas.” What is a doula? A doula provides continuous

one-on-one physical care during labor, as well as information and emotional support for months before and after birth. Using a doula has been shown to improve birth outcomes for

both mothers and babies, from lowering rates of cesarean sections to boosting infants’ Apgar scores, which reflect their health immediately after birth.   Most

say they also serve to lift up the voice and wishes of the birthing person, who may not always feel comfortable expressing them or who might be unable to do so during labor.