Premature Births Costly to American Businesses

Health care costs for premature babies are more than 10-fold higher than for healthy infants

THURSDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Employer health plans spend more than 10 times as much money to care for babies born prematurely to their employees as they do for healthy, full-term babies, according to a report issued March 17 by the March of Dimes Foundation.

Jennifer L. Howse, M.D., president of the March of Dimes, released the report at "Healthy Babies, Healthy Business: Cutting Costs and Reducing Premature Birth Rates," a themed luncheon co-hosted by the March of Dimes with the National Chamber Foundation, a think-tank affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The firm Thomson Reuters compiled its estimates -- in 2007 dollars -- from the MarketScan Research Database for infants born in 2005.

According to the report, one in eight babies is now born premature, at an annual cost of at least $26.2 billion. The authors estimated that the average medical cost of caring for a premature and/or low birth weight baby from birth through age 1 is $49,033, of which $46,004 is paid by the health plan and $1,987 is paid by the employee. The comparable cost of caring for a healthy full-term baby is $4,551, of which $3,859 is paid by the health plan and $654 is paid by the employee.

"Preventing preterm birth is one way we can begin to rein in our nation's skyrocketing health care costs and help businesses protect their bottom line," Howse said in a statement. "The best prevention of prematurity is good maternity care."

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