ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
CANCER
Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
CAREGIVING
Diabetes Epidemic Now Poses Challenges for Nursing Homes
High Rate of Rehospitalizations Costing Billions
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
DIABETES
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
DIET, NUTRITION
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Pregnant Rural Women More at Risk
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
Clear Skies Have Become Less So Over Time, Data Show
EYE CARE, VISION
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
FITNESS
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
Fliers Can Keep Blood Clots at Bay
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
Household Insecticides May Be Linked to Autoimmune Diseases
Hoping for a Happy Family Holiday? Here's How
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Musicians' Brains Tuned to Emotions in Sound
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
SENIORS
Exercise Benefits Even the Oldest Old
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Add your Article

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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