Pennsylvania expands access to doula care by adding support professionals to its Medicaid program

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Ashlee Hedway has always been fascinated by the birthing process.

“Like since I was a kid,” she said. “My mom can tell you, she’d be like, ‘Why are you in here watching a baby story on TLC?’ Or something like that.”

Despite her interest, Hedway knew she didn’t want to become a nurse or a certified nurse midwife. It wasn’t until later when a friend became pregnant and hired a doula that she discovered a different career path.

“I had never even heard of it,” Hedway said. “Once she told me, I was like, ‘This is it. This is the thing.’”

Doulas are non-clinical professionals that provide emotional, physical and education support during and after pregnancy. Research shows that involving a doula can improve maternal and infant outcomes, especially during childbirth and in the postpartum period.

After going through education programs and getting trained, Hedway opened her own doula private practice in Lancaster during the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus of supporting Black and brown women and pregnant people.

Making the business side of her practice work has been a challenge, though, since most health insurance plans don’t cover doula services. Hedway said she’s had to be creative in billing as she tries to balance the financial means of her clients and her need to make an income from this career.

This balancing act may now become a little easier for providers like Hedway. Beginning Feb. 1, Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, also known as the Medical Assistance Program, will allow certified perinatal doulas to offer their services as in-network maternity care providers.

  • February 11, 2024
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