Here’s a quick medical quiz: What’s the most common reason for hospitalization in the United States? Take a stab. Respiratory distress? Cardiac arrest?
Try childbirth. As researchers at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health observe, more than four million babies are born in American hospitals every year, and from maternal checkups to newborn care, moms-to-be rack up more charges than any other patients. In 2009, those costs totaled nearly $30 billion.
Maternal health care is a big burden on Medicaid, which pays the expenses of low-income patients and annually foots the bill for 45 percent of all births. What’s more, low-income moms have disproportionately high rates of complication and Caesarean section. According to the Minnesota researchers, Medicaid mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely, or to low-weight babies, than more affluent women.
Writing this month in the American Journal of Public Health, Katy Backes Kozhimannil and her colleagues propose a novel way to reduce birth complications and bring down maternal Medicaid costs at the same time: use doulas.