Texas Doctors Seek to Help Trafficking Victims, Protect New Mothers

June 7, 2019

Texas doctors hope policy proposals put forth now can help stop human trafficking and protect women having a baby by extending their health insurance coverage.

The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates policymaking body will take up these and other resolutions this weekend and in the coming week during the national medical association’s annual meeting, in Chicago.

Human Trafficking
“Human trafficking is slavery.” Beginning with that blunt assessment, the 34-member Texas Delegation to the AMA House will ask the body to adopt Resolution 023, to help fight human trafficking, starting with placing information for victims and others where they can see it in physician’s exam rooms.

“Physicians have a unique and critical role to play in preventing human trafficking, and identifying and treating its victims,” the policy proposal reads. “Victims and survivors of human trafficking may be seen at local clinics, emergency departments, or other medical settings, and the health care team’s actions at that moment can make a lifesaving difference.”

Texas Delegation doctors want clinical medical settings to display posters providing information about reporting human trafficking and providing assistance to victims. The resolution also calls for posting of downloadable materials and the National Human Trafficking Hotline number ([888] 373-7888) to AMA’s website. The doctors also call for policy urging the federal government to amend laws “to advocate for the broad posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in clinics and other medical settings.”

The goal is to stop trafficking and get victims help. Victims sometimes present in emergency departments or doctor’s offices for care, and generally raising awareness could prove beneficial. Human trafficking involves controlling people to force them to work or perform sex acts. Human trafficking is reported in every state, with nearly 19,000 cases being reported since 2007 in just five states including Texas. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported more than 5,000 cases nationwide in the first half of 2018. More might go unreported.

“A form of slavery, human trafficking heavily impacts Texas and other border states especially, and we, as physicians, need the resources to fully reach out and care for these victims,” said David N. Henkes, MD, who chairs the Texas Delegation to the AMA.

The Lubbock County Medical Society spearheaded efforts to help physicians raise awareness and combat the problem two years ago.

Maternal Health
Another of the dozen resolutions the Texas Delegation will submit would seek to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women. The Texans are endorsing the resolution, No. 221, originally submitted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Medicaid coverage currently ends 60 days after a woman delivers her baby, and the extension would cover her for 12 months postpartum.

Dr. Henkes said the resolution aims to reduce deaths and chronic illnesses for women after delivering their babies. The doctors hope to accomplish this through enactment of state and federal legislation, or a Medicaid waiver.

“Studies show a significant number of catastrophic illnesses can occur due to pregnancy up to 12 months after childbirth. If this resolution passes, physicians feel a number of maternal and perinatal deaths can be prevented,” he said.

The resolution refers to the postpartum period as “simultaneously a time of vulnerability and maternal health risk, and a transition period with often unmet maternal health needs.” More than 60% of maternal deaths are preventable, the resolution says, citing several reports. The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force recommended extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum to ensure that “medical and behavioral health conditions can be managed and treated before becoming progressively severe.” The task force’s 2016 report says nearly 60% of women who died postpartum died between six weeks and 52 weeks after delivery. The deaths often are linked to cardiovascular disease, drug overdose, and suicide.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 53,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

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Contact:  Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org

Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org

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Last Updated On

June 07, 2019

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AMA | Human Trafficking | Public Health