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Health Team

Prenatal care program yields Medicaid savings, healthier babies

Posted April 23, 2012 1:08 p.m. EDT
Updated April 23, 2012 6:13 p.m. EDT

— A prenatal care program is saving Medicaid money and helping healthier babies be born, state health officials believe.

The Pregnancy Medical Home program is aimed at preventing complications for mother and baby and reducing preterm births, thereby saving the state money.

"Every 1 percent of reduction (of preterm births) is $50 million in savings for the state, while you're having better health outcomes in doing it," said Al Delia, acting secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Fifty-six percent of babies in North Carolina are born to mothers enrolled in Medicaid, and 11 percent of those babies are of low birth weight, usually due to preterm birth.

It costs the state Medicaid program about $3,000 to care for a full-term baby in the first year of its life. For babies born early, that cost jumps up to $74,000 – 25 times higher.

As a Medicaid patient, Karima Elqira was assigned to the Pregnancy Medical Home program when she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She got the help of a pregnancy care manager for her high-risk pregnancy.

"Even when I (did) not come to appointments, she call me and ask about me," Elqira said. "She's just like, you know, my best friend. That's what I feel."

Private primary car providers enrolled in the program get financial incentives for cost-saving practices. Those include performing an initial risk screening, eliminating elective deliveries, providing postpartum care, encouraging vaginal deliveries and giving at-risk patients a 17P injection, a hormone shot that decreases the risk of preterm labor.

Obstetrician-gynecologist Cathy Weaverly-Jones, with the Wake County health department, said the first year of the program has proven its worth in both cost savings and healthier moms and babies.

"I came here, you know, and they fix everything," Elqira said.