Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Enhances Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care Criteria to Advance Health Equity

CHICAGO – Today, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) released new evaluation criteria for Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) for Maternity Care starting in 2023. The enhanced measures evaluate each facility based on quality and its commitment to health equity, including how the facility collects and analyzes race and ethnicity data to reduce health care disparities.

BDC for Maternity Care is a national center of excellence program that encompasses more than 1,000 health care facilities nationwide—almost 25% of all birthing hospitals. Designated facilities must meet rigorous quality evaluations that measure structure, process and patient outcomes. In 2020, BDC for Maternity Care centers had 75% fewer early elective deliveries and a 24% lower cesarean section delivery rate, when compared to non-designated facilities.

Some of the new enhancements that BDC for Maternity Care centers will be evaluated on include:

  • If the facility has training to assess potential mental health impacts of birth-related trauma
  • If the facility would be eligible to receive a “birthing friendly” designation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • If the facility provides access to cultural humility and unconscious bias training
  • If nurse midwives, doulas and birthing centers are included in provider networks

“No one should have to worry about the quality of the care they’re receiving when delivering their baby,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA. “The only way to receive a Blue Distinction Center designation is through proven results that show patients receive safe, high-quality care. Our new criteria encourage health care facilities to not just provide high-quality care, but also take meaningful actions to address the systemic racial disparities that women of color face.”

The updated criteria are part of BCBSA’s National Health Equity Strategy, which was launched in 2021 and committed to reducing racial disparities in maternal health by 50% by 2026. The enhancements to the BDC for Maternity Care program address several of the 10 actions BCBSA named that organizations can adopt to improve maternal health and make a measurable difference in health disparities.

“We set a bold goal because action must be taken, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are doing just that through advocacy, partnerships and local programs that support mothers at every stage of their pregnancy. Every mother deserves to have a healthy pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby and live a healthy postpartum life,” Keck continued.

The refresh follows CMS’ Maternity Care Convening on December 13 that brought together policymakers and leaders from across the health care continuum to discuss solutions to improve maternal health care. BCBSA participated in the event.

For more information about the Blue Distinction program, visit and to learn more about how BCBS companies are advancing health equity, visit

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.