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Tiniest Babies Carry Biggest Costs
Date:3/17/2009

Businesses urged to help lower health costs and prevent preterm births,,

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 t
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