MATERNITY STAYS: Study Says Longer Stays Aren’t Too Costly
A new study has found that discharging women from the hospital one day earlier after giving birth saves $280 per delivery -- "not the $1,000 to $2,000 estimates given by private insurance companies" in the battle over mandatory maternity stays. A study of 5,585 vaginal deliveries for Medicaid patients at Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indiana, and published in this month's Medical Care Research and Review, found that "most expenses are incurred on the first day" of a maternity stay. The study also found that after the introduction of Medicaid managed care in the state, the average maternity stay decreased 22% from 2.7 days to 2.1 days. Study co-author Ming Tai-Seale said, "Early discharge is not cost-free to society or a hospital," noting that Medicaid recipients "have fewer resources after delivery than their privately insured counterparts." However, she noted that the purpose of the study was not to criticize the state's Medicaid program, "but to inject hard numbers into a debate that has raged for years" (Labalme, Indianapolis Star/News, 3/18). She said, "We wanted to inform policy makers in the public and private sectors that when they make decisions like mandating a certain length of stay or discharge, they need to, No. 1, use correct information for their cost estimations, and No. 2, measure the benefits accordingly." The AP/Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer notes that while state and federal law currently mandates two days of post-delivery hospitalization, the laws do not apply to Medicaid patients. Tai-Seale said, "Medicaid moms -- quite a few -- get discharged very early. Some stay less than eight hours." Kathy Gifford, head of the state's Medicaid program, said that neither the state nor the HMOs that serve its Medicaid program have a policy of limiting hospital stays for Medicaid patients, and that such decisions are up to the patient and her doctor (Foliti, 3/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.