Better U.S. maternity can save $5 billion

Jan. 31, 2013 at 11:44 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Private businesses and federal and state governments could save $5 billion a year if the quality of U.S. maternity care improved, non-profit groups say.

The report issued by Childbirth Connection, Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform said if the rate of U.S. Cesarean-sections were reduced from it's current 33 percent to the 15 percent or less recommended by the World Health Organization national spending on maternity care would decline by more than $5 billion.

Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection, said the high proportion of babies delivered by Cesarean-section costs commercial insurance plans and state/federal Medicaid programs thousands of dollars more per birth than vaginal births.

"Four million U.S. babies are born every year, and one-third of them are now delivered by Cesarean section instead of vaginal birth, a 50 percent increase in the last decade," Corry said in a statement.

"Not only do unwarranted Cesarean-sections create greater health risks for women and babies, this study shows that they also dramatically increase costs for employers and, through Medicaid programs, state and federal budgets. For the commercially insured, the average cost of a birth by Cesarean-section in 2010 was $27,866, compared to $18,329 for a vaginal birth. Medicaid programs paid nearly $4,000 more for Cesarean-section than vaginal births."

The study also found that the cost of maternal care -- not including newborn care -- increased by more than 40 percent between 2004 and 2010 for commercially insured women, and that the cost was nearly 50 percent higher in some states than others.

Total commercial payments for care of newborns were $5,809 for babies delivered vaginally and $11,193 for Cesarean births, while total Medicaid payments for newborn care were $3,014 for vaginal births and $5,607 for Cesarean births.

Reducing the rate of prematurity -- by better maternity care -- among infants could significantly reduce these costs, Corry said.

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