ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Traditional Chinese Therapy May Help Ease Eczema
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Most Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Lack Vitamin D
Vitamin K Doesn't Slow Bone Loss
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
CANCER
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
Injected Medication Errors a Major Problem
Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Is Your Refrigerator Getting Enough Attention For Your Raw Food Success?
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Compound in Red Wine Fights Ravages of Age
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
As Earth Warms, Lyme Disease Could Flourish
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Pollution Particles Impair Blood Vessel Function
EYE CARE, VISION
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
FITNESS
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Study Supports Swine Flu's Pandemic Potential
Treat symptoms (result of disease) or diagnose systems (cause of disease)?
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
St. John's Wort Doesn't Work for ADHD
Play Creatively as a Kid, Be a Healthier Adult
Wood Fires Can Harm the Youngest Lungs
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
SENIORS
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Exercise Benefits Even the Oldest Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
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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