With such a strong focus on the US healthcare system, researchers and government officials are constantly looks for ways to reduce healthcare costs. This is especially important in maternal health care as up to 50% of all birth costs are billed to the Medicaid system. Medicaid is a federal health insurance program managed at the state level. C-section deliveries are more expensive and risky than vaginal deliveries and C-section rates have risen by nearly 12% from 1996 to 2011.
A recent study published in the journal Health Affairs describes a huge C-section rate variance among US hospitals. There appears to be no known cause for higher C-section rates at one hospital compared to another, but the difference is extraordinary. Researchers and government officials are concerned that certain hospitals are allowing elective C-sections performed on women who could otherwise birth vaginally with no complication.
Researchers investigated 593 hospitals using information collected in 2009 as part of a healthcare research project. According to the information collected, some hospitals reported C-section rates at about 7% of all births while others reported rates at nearly 70% of births. This variance was expected to narrow when it came to C-section rates among otherwise healthy women experiencing low-risk pregnancies, but that was not the case. Low-risk pregnancies were delivered via C-section between 2.4% and 36.5% of the time. Again, the huge difference in C-section delivery rates is of concern.
Government officials may want to look into possible remedies for increased C-section rates, according to study authors. Improved triage care, specialty care and data collection could play a part in lowering C-section variances.
With strong attention on the current status of state and federal healthcare systems, government officials will likely be looking into healthcare practices in an attempt to eliminate costly medical procedures draining Medicaid funds. Elective or unnecessary C-sections may be one place officials will look to cut healthcare costs.
Source: Katy Backes Kozhimannil, Michael R. Law, Beth A. Virnig. Cesarean Delivery Rates Vary Tenfold Among US Hospitals; Reducing Variation May Address Quality And Cost Issues. DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1030. Health Aff March 2013 vol. 32 no. 3 527-535.