ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
Brazilian Mint Tea Naturally Good for Pain Relief
CANCER
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Health Tip: Benefitting From Adult Day Care
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
What Moms Learned May Be Passed to Offspring
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
Is Coffee Good or Bad for Your Health?
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Genetics, Environment Shape Sexual Behavior
EYE CARE, VISION
Autistic Children Make Limited Eye Contact
Retinal Gene Is Linked to Childhood Blindness
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
FITNESS
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
Fall Cleanup Is a Prime Time for Accidents
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Have Fun But Put Play It Safe on the 4th
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
The Unmedicated Mind
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Simple Carbs Pose Heart Risk for Women
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
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Tiniest Babies Carry Biggest Costs

TUESDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- One year of medical costs paid by a company's health insurance for a premature baby could cover the medical costs of almost a dozen healthy, full-term babies, a new report from the March of Dimes claims.

Medical costs for healthy, full-term babies during their first year average $4,551, of which about $3,800 is covered by employer heath insurance. But for preterm babies, the cost is almost $50,000, with about $46,000 paid by employer insurance.

"The report is really aimed at the business community," Jennifer L. Howse, the March of Dimes president, said. "The purpose of the report is to underscore the very serious financial consequences of the rising problem of premature birth in our country."

By highlighting the costs of premature birth, the March of Dimes is hoping to get businesses to take steps to make sure employees and their families get good prenatal care, Howse said. "Being an employer who provides employee health insurance, you are a stakeholder in prevention," she said. "Good prevention equals a healthier workforce."

Howse noted that the costs of preterm birth can be substantial and continue well beyond the first year of life. These can include cerebral palsy, mental retardation or neurological impairment. "The more severe the disabilities and problems experienced by the newborn, the higher the costs will be," she said.

In the United States, preterm births cost $26 billion annually, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. About 543,000 preterm infants are born each year, a number that has increased more than 36 percent since the 1980s.

Premature birth is a leading cause of newborn death, and infants who do survive face the risk of lifelong health conditions. In fact, 25 percent of infants born prematurely will have lifetime problems resulting from their early birth, Howse said. "They will require more in the way of health care, rehabilitation and special education," she said.

Premature infants also require more time in the hospital, averaging more than 14 days in their first year of life, compared with a little more than two days for healthy, full-term infants. In addition, premature infants average more than 21 outpatient visits, compared with 14 for full-term infants, according to the report.

Combined, infant and maternity costs for a premature infant average $64,713, compared with $15,047 for an infant born without complications, and employer health plans pay more than 90 percent of those costs, according to the report.

In addition, costs for complicated deliveries were also significantly higher than for uncomplicated deliveries, whether the infant was premature or full-term. Maternity care for a complicated delivery costs, on average, $14,667, the report found, compared with $10,652 for an uncomplicated delivery.

To help businesses address the problem of premature delivery, the March of Dimes developed a Web-based pregnancy and newborn health information program called Healthy Babies, Healthy Business. Howse described the program as an easy way for employers to deliver accurate, up-to-date information directly to employees to help reduce the number of premature deliveries and, at the same time, reduce health-care costs.

The March of Dimes report was compiled by Thomson Reuters, using data on inpatient and outpatient medical costs, prescription drugs for infants from birth through the first year and for mothers, including the delivery, prenatal services in the nine months before and the three months after delivery. It was to be presented Tuesday to business leaders at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the March of Dimes and the National Chamber Foundation, a think-tank affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Maureen Hack, from the Department of Pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said that the costs covered in the report are only a small part of the costs associated with preterm delivery.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg," Hack said. "This might be what it is costing the employers for the first year, but these kids have continuing health problems and, later on, they have educational problems."

And prenatal care, Hack noted, might not be enough to prevent preterm births. "It's very complex," she said. "There are a lot of factors that contribute to preterm births."

But to help pregnant women, the March of Dimes suggests that companies:

* Provide information on preconception, prenatal, postnatal and infant care.
* Offer a smoke-, drug- and toxin-free working environment.
* Encourage physical activity.
* Make available information about healthy pregnancy and childbirth and prenatal care.
* Allow time off for regular prenatal and infant care.
* Provide an area for women to pump and store breast milk.
* Provide comprehensive health insurance.
* Offer flextime and the option to work from home.
* Provide job protection beyond the current law, including for adoption and foster care placement.

-Steven Reinberg

More information

The March of Dimes has more on premature babies.



SOURCES: Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D., president, March of Dimes, White Plains, N.Y.; Maureen Hack, M.D., Ch.B., department of pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland; March 17, 2009, Healthy Babies, Healthy Business: Cutting Costs and Reducing Premature Birth Rates, March of Dimes Foundation

Last Updated: March 17, 2009

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