Preterm babies cost health plans billions, study shows

A study, published in Pediatrics, examined the cost burden preterm infants place on health plans.

Researchers studied employer-sponsored health plans to determine how much they spend on preterm infants.

The study shows employer-sponsored health plans spent an estimated $6 billion extra on infants born prematurely in 2013. While many premature infants are healthy, a small percentage with long-lasting birth defects place a cost burden on health plans. Researchers found infants with major birth defects accounted for less than 6 percent of premature births, but a quarter of expenditures.

"The contribution of this study is to start to tweak out the contribution of birth defects to that overall cost burden so we can start to prioritize efforts at prevention of both preterm births and birth defects," said Norman J. Waitzman, PhD, professor and chair of the economics department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “This is a multi-billion-dollar burden. In order to prioritize interventions, we have to have an accurate estimate of what the costs are and how those are broken down because often times interventions are tailored to specific populations.

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