January 9, 2013 — Reducing the caesarean section rate in the U.S. from the current 33% to 15% would save $5 billion annually in maternity care costs, according to a study released on Monday by Truven Health Analytics, Bloomberg's "The Ticker" reports. The study was sponsored by Childbirth Connection, Catalyst for Payment Reform, and the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.
According to the World Health Organization, 15% would be the c-section rate if the surgery was only performed when medically necessary.
C-sections cost about 50% more than vaginal births, the study noted. It found that on average, private insurers in 2010 paid $27,866 for a c-section, compared with $18,329 for a vaginal birth. Medicaid paid an average of $13,590 for a c-section and $9,131 for a vaginal birth in 2010, according to the study.
Several health systems and states have taken steps to reduce c-sections that are not medically necessary. Some hospitals no longer perform elective c-sections before 39 weeks, while Texas' Medicaid program has stopped paying for those procedures. A growing body of research shows that infants born at 37 weeks or 38 weeks, while not considered premature, are at a higher risk of health problems than those born later (Beyer, "The Ticker," Bloomberg, 1/8).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership