Having a child is exciting for families and employers who want their people to have full lives outside of work. But it’s also tricky for employers because of increased health care costs and disability claims, inconsistent productivity and employee retention.
With maternity-related health expenses on the rise in Tennessee, savvy employers are now offering maternity care programs designed to improve health outcomes, reduce medical expenses and help ease the transition into new motherhood.
The Business Case for Maternity Care Programs
The average cost for insurers for pregnancy and newborn care is about $40,000, according to a Truven report. From 2004 to 2010, the cost paid for childbirth by insurers in the United States increased an average of 45 percent.
Meanwhile, out-of-pocket costs increased fourfold, and the price tag is even steeper for complicated births. More than $1 billion is spent each year on hospitalizations related to pregnancy complications, according to a report from the National Business Group on Health. Pre-term births alone cost the U.S. at least $26.2 billion annually.
Many of these early births could be prevented with better medical care and earlier detection of pregnancy-related health problems, says Sandra Carmack, a case manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
“Tennessee has an above-average premature birth rate,” she says. “We’re at 10.3 percent, where the U.S. average is 9.6 percent. So, most insurance companies in Tennessee now offer some sort of wellness program for pregnant women, like BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s new Healthy Maternity program. By providing additional education, resources and monitoring, we hope to decrease this statistic.”
How Maternity Wellness Pays Off
Maternity care programs provide education and resources to help expecting mothers take the best possible care of themselves and their babies — during pregnancy and after childbirth.
These programs monitor members to ensure they’re on track for healthy births. “We call them at least once during the first and second trimesters, then every month in the third trimester,” says Carmack. “Along with their doctors, we can help spot potential complications, such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure, and ensure members get the additional medical attention they need.”
They also encourage members not to miss appointments with their doctors. “Some women go to the first visit, but don’t continue,” says Carmack. “One reason pre-term birth rate is higher in Tennessee is because there are many rural areas where women live 30 to 45 minutes away from their doctors.”
“Getting proper maternity care isn’t always convenient, but it’s very important,” Carmack continued. “Now we call members and ask if they went to the doctor. We also ask for permission to contact their doctors if we spot potential health complications.”
Wellness After Childbirth
After babies are born, maternity care programs can help to screen for postpartum depression and other issues that might make it difficult for new mothers to get back to work and up to speed. “Wellness is a priority right now with employers,” says Carmack. “We regularly work with employers to help ensure their employees stay healthy.”
Carmack adds that offering this type of program is a proactive way to promote wellness during pregnancy and assist new moms throughout the process. “As a new mom years ago, I felt lost. This is a great opportunity for employers to help expecting mothers while also reducing health care costs.”
For employers: Wellness programs are regulated by federal and state law. Consult your legal counsel before implementing any program component.