NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 20, 2009

The medical costs that businesses pay to care for one premature baby for a year -- about $49,000 -- could cover the costs for nearly a dozen healthy, full-term infants, according to new statistics from the March of Dimes.


  • The average medical cost for healthy full-term babies from birth through their first birthday was $4,551 in 2007 dollars, of which more than $3,800 is paid for by health plans, according to the new data.
  • For premature and/or low birthweight babies (less than 37 completed weeks gestation and/or less than 2500 grams), the average cost was nearly $50,000, of which more than $46,000 was borne by the health plan.

Although most of these costs go straight to the health care plans, even out-of-pocket expenses are far greater for premature babies than for children delivered at a normal time:

  • The average out-of-pocket expense for a premature or low-birth-weight baby in the first year was $1,987.
  • For uncomplicated births, it is $654, and a baby with other kinds of complications averages $953 in out of pocket expenses.

"Preventing preterm birth is one way we can begin to rein in our nation's skyrocketing health care costs and help businesses protect their bottom line," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.  "The best prevention of prematurity is good maternity care."

Source: Elizabeth Landau, "Study: Average preemie costs $49,000 in first year," CNN, March 17, 2009.

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