Consumer Reports rates hospitals on C-sections, finds 60% miss national mark

There is incredible variation in hospital C-section rates — so much so that a Consumer Reports investigation finds that the single biggest variable that influences a woman's chance of having a C-section is which hospital she chooses to deliver her baby.

In fact, after examining C-section rates of more than 1,200 U.S. hospitals, Consumer Reports found almost six in 10 hospitals exceed the national target C-section rate.

"Our investigation reveals that most U.S. hospitals have failed to come close to reaching what we consider to be attainable benchmarks," Doris Peter, PhD, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in a statement. The group published rates for all hospitals that make the information available.

Here are the main findings from the investigation.

1. Roughly one in six hospitals investigated by the consumer group had C-section rates above 33.3 percent. This is far above the national target of 23.9 percent, and the cutoff established by Consumer Reports for its worst score.

2. Only about one in eight had rates of 18.4 percent or lower.

3. Variation in C-section rates is extremely pronounced. C-section rates for low-risk deliveries range from 11 percent at some hospitals to 53 percent at others. Variation even exists within the same communities.

4. Variation also varies by region. Consumer Reports found higher rates in the Northeast and South and lower rates in the West and Midwest.

5. Mississippi, Kentucky, Florida and Washington D.C., have among the highest C-section rates, all above 30 percent.

6. Conversely, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico and North Dakota have the lowest rates, all below 18.5 percent.

7. Many hospitals do not release C-section rates. Consumer Reports notes that 24 of these hospitals that do not share C-section rates have a high volume of deliveries of more than 5,000 births annually.


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