NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Law Interferes With Home Care Of Newborns

February 9, 1999

A few horror stories deploring "drive-through" deliveries of newborns at hospitals prompted Congress to pass the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act of 1996 -- which mandated a 48- hour hospital stay for babies and their mothers.

But the one-size-fits-all law has had some negative repercussions, critics report.

  • Contrary to popular myth, they say, shorter hospital stays after birth stemmed from the desires of families -- rather than cost-cutting efforts by insurers.
  • Prior to the legislation, a fast-growing maternal home health care niche had begun to form -- dictated by the fact that new mothers need follow-up care.
  • But the new legislation has made it tougher for nurses to convince health plans of the value of home follow-up visits -- even though 48 hours is too short a time for adequate observation in a number of births.

Observers say spending a few hundred dollars to have nurses come into the home -- as an alternative to a 48-hour hospital stay with no follow up -- is preferable for several reasons: nurses can assess potential dangers within the home and watch for health complications in the newborn which typically don't show up until more than two days later; it allows mothers to recuperate in familiar surroundings; and it saves money.

Source: Mariel Garza, "The 48-Hour Fix," Reason, February 1999.


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