Health & Medicine’s Birth Center Task Force Renews Advocacy for Birth Center Expansion and Becomes Fiscal Sponsor to Support Chicago Southside Birth Center – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Health & Medicine’s Birth Center Task Force Renews Advocacy for Birth Center Expansion and Becomes Fiscal Sponsor to Support Chicago Southside Birth Center

March 8, 2022

Health & Medicine is proud of the role we have played in advocating for birth center* expansion and is pleased to announce our role supporting the development of a new birth center on Chicago’s south side.

Throughout 2021, the Task Force was actively involved in renewed efforts to expand the availability of birth centers in Illinois. This new push for birth center expansion emerged in mid-2020 following the confluence of three timely developments: 1) interest by two certified nurse midwives wanting to open a new birth center in the growing obstetrical desert on Chicago’s south side; 2) two statewide maternity-related Task Forces recommending expansion of the birth center model in Illinois; and 3) reimbursement challenges being faced by the two existing two birth centers in Illinois — the Birth Center at PCC Community Wellness Center (an FQHC-run center in Berwyn) and the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal (a private, downstate center run by two OBGYNs) — and two others planned in the southwest suburb of Burr Ridge and on Chicago’s north side.

As a result, the Task Force, along with legislative partners, initiated a two-prong legislative approach last session: a “quick fix” tweak of the current language in the Alternative Health Care Delivery Act that increases the maximum number of birth centers in the metro Chicago area from four to six and the creation of a separate licensing category for birth centers in Illinois that also addresses some of the reimbursement issues. During this legislative session, there are also two parallel but related efforts to create a licensing category for certified professional midwives in Illinois and to establish a pilot project that studies the benefits of home births for pregnant persons of color who receive Medicaid.  

Health & Medicine has long championed the value of birth centers to provide cost-effective, high-quality prenatal and obstetrical services, offering women an additional option when choosing where to give birth in Illinois. For more than 30 years, Health & Medicine’s Birth Center Task Force has provided policy expertise and leadership for the birth center movement in Illinois. Interested in getting more involved in our Birth Center Task Force and improving birth options for Illinois families? E-mail Margie Schaps at mschaps@hmprg.org.

* A birth center is defined as a designated site that is away from the mother’s usual place of residence and in which births are planned to occur following a normal, uncomplicated, and low-risk pregnancy. A birth center shall offer prenatal care and community education services and shall coordinate these services with other health care services available in the community.