Study: Hospitals waste billions on maternity care

A new study suggests U.S. hospitals could save billions of dollars a year if they implemented better maternity care practices.

Hospitals' overuse of procedures such as C-sections as driving up healthcare costs, according to the report, jointly issued by the groups Childbirth Connection, Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.

The average natural childbirth in a hospital for a commercially insured patient costs $18,329. For a C-section, the birth costs $27,866--an increase of more than 50 percent. For an uninsured patient, the cost gap is nearly 70 percent, according to the study.

The nationwide C-section rate is now 33 percent, up from less than 25 percent a decade ago. C-section births cost more because the mother requires a longer hospitalization to recover, according to The Hill's Healthwatch.

"Not only do unwarranted c-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," Maureen Corry, executive director of the Childbirth Connection, said in a statement.

Reducing the C-section rate to 15 percent would cut nationwide maternity costs by $5 billion a year, according to the study.

Insurers also have been working to decrease the amount of cesarean surgeries to help defray the rising healthcare costs and risks associated with the procedure, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. For example, Aetna has adjusted prices for cesareans and renegotiated maternity payments for 10 hospitals.

For more information:
- here's the study (.pdf)
- read the research annoncement
- read the Hill's Healthwatch article