Study: U.S. Could Save $5B Through Fewer C-Sections

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National spending on maternity care could drop by $5 billion if the rate of U.S. Cesarean sections fell in line with global recommendations, according to a new report (pdf) from three healthcare organizations.

Childbirth Connection, Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform released the report, which used data from Truven Health Analytics. Currently, 4 million babies in the U.S., or 33 percent of all newborns, are delivered by C-section instead of vaginal birth. The report found if that percentage dropped to 15 percent, as the World Health Organization recommends, national maternity care costs would decline by roughly $5 billion.

"Maternity care is yet another example of how our current healthcare payment systems can actually penalize healthcare providers for delivering higher-value care," said Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of CPR, in a news release. "We need to pay physicians and hospitals in ways that reward them for eliminating early elective deliveries, reducing unnecessary C-sections and preventing complications of childbirth."

Here are other key findings from the report:

•    Overall, average C-sections ($27,866) cost 50 percent more than natural deliveries ($18,329).

•    The average total charges for women and newborns with employer-provided commercial health insurance and who went through vaginal birth were $32,093. For C-sections, that total rose to $51,125.

•    In Medicaid, average total maternal and newborn care charges for vaginal births and C-sections were $29,800 and $50,373, respectively.

•    Roughly 59 percent of total maternal and newborn care costs for natural deliveries are used to pay for hospital and other facility fees. Sixty-six percent of costs for C-sections are for hospital facility fees.

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