Healthcare Business News

Four states picked for birth outcomes project

Organizers note cost of pre-term births on Medicaid.

By Maureen McKinney
Posted: December 23, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

Four states have been chosen to participate in a National Governors Association-led program aimed at improving prenatal care, reducing pre-term birth rates and curbing infant mortality.

In a Dec. 21 news release, the NGA said it had selected Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana and Michigan to take part in the initiative, known as the Learning Network on Improving Birth Outcomes. The network is not intended to establish new programs but to help states share best practices and align their current projects, the NGA said.

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To that end, the group says it will host several in-state planning sessions and a March 2013 networking conference.

The U.S. ranks 41st in the world in infant mortality and 12.8% of U.S. births are preterm, or less than 37 weeks gestation, according to data cited in the NGA's Oct. 23 request for applications. Pre-term births come with higher risks of complications and much greater costs of care, the NGA added.

“A significant challenge for state Medicaid programs is the relatively high incidence of premature births and the resulting medical complications for the infant, which directly translates into increased costs,” the group said in its request. “The Medicaid program spent roughly $6.3 billion in the first seven years of life of preterm babies born in 2005.”

The NGA said it plans to conduct two more rounds of its Learning Network, for a total of 12 participating states.

The initiative is part of an ever-increasing focus on birth outcomes and maternal and child health. The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed quality improvement organization, has been vocal in its views about hospitals' need to reduce early elective delivery rates. And on Dec. 5, Charlotte, N.C.-based Premier announced the results of its Perinatal Safety Initiative, a 14-hospital project that successfully lowered both complications and liability claims.

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