MINIMUM MATERNITY STAY: Drives Up Hospital Stays, Costs
After Pennsylvania, passed a "minimum maternity stay" law, the number of "mothers discharged within one day or less" fell 30%, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The average hospital stay for healthy women who had uncomplicated vaginal deliveries was 1.6 days in 1995. The law, which requires insurers to pay for a two-day stay if a woman so chooses, took effect in 1996. Last year, the average stay was 2.1 days. The average hospital charge for such deliveries showed a commensurate increase, rising 30% from $3,423 in 1994 to $4,466 in 1998, and an official at Aetna U.S. Healthcare said that the company's costs for deliveries rose "at least 30%" after the law's implementation. Nonetheless, some legislators and providers think the law's benefits are "worth the extra money," as a two- day stay gives hospital staff more time for maternal education and allows women to bond with babies before facing distractions at the home. Even one physician who said that the number of mothers needing longer hospital stays probably had been overestimated did not favor a repeal of the law. If that happened, he said, insurance companies would again refuse to pay for stays longer than 24 hours, and "[w]e'd be back to fighting case by case" for coverage for women who needed longer stays (Burling, 10/28).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.