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Aetna Helping to Create Safer Birth Days for Moms and Babies

-- New educational tools and hospital programs are aimed at reducing the number of high-risk, elective deliveries --

Thursday, May 10, 2012 9:46 am EDT

Dateline:

HARTFORD, Conn.
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AET
"Having a baby is an extremely special time for families. We want to help ensure moms and all the little bundles of joy have the safest and healthiest birth days possible"

HARTFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Parents are predisposed to protect their child’s well-being. However, evidence suggests that for a variety of non-medical reasons, too many babies are delivered by cesarean section (C-section) or their birth dates are selected too early -- before the recommended 39 weeks of pregnancy. To help parents and babies avoid that preventable risk, Aetna (NYSE: AET) is helping providers and moms-to-be recognize and avoid the complex combination of issues that contribute to early elective delivery and medically unnecessary C-sections.

“Thankfully, advances in medicine have greatly increased survival rates for babies who must be delivered early or by C-section for medical reasons. But early delivery and C-section still have risks. With early delivery, for example, babies are at increased risk for infection, respiratory distress and development problems. They also are more likely to need care in neonatal intensive care unit,” says Joanne Armstrong, M.D., an Ob-Gyn, senior medical director and head of Women's Health at Aetna. “We hope our collaboration with health care providers and outreach to members can help reduce this unnecessary risk for mothers and babies.”

Planning while waiting for baby

For expectant parents, Aetna recently launched “Waiting for Baby,” an educational video to help with labor and delivery decisions. The video includes information on the importance of waiting a full 39 weeks of pregnancy before scheduling delivery, as well as information on the ways to avoid medically unnecessary C-section delivery.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), The March of Dimes, and many obstetricians and pediatricians have advocated against early elective deliveries. Organizations such as the International Cesarean Awareness Network also work to inform parents of the realities of C-sections. Still, many expectant mothers may not be aware of the significant health issues associated with early elective delivery or elective C-sections, Armstrong says. Compared to a C-section, vaginal birth has benefits such as faster recovery time, shorter hospital stay, prevention of potential complications of surgery including blood loss, infection, anesthesia risks, injury to bowel and urinary tract, and blood clots in the leg. Additionally, elective deliveries that occur before 39 weeks and medically unnecessary C-sections also increase preventable costs for new families and the health care system overall.

In addition to being available online at Aetna.com, the “Waiting for Baby” DVD will be mailed to expectant Aetna members. The video was produced by the award-winning health education group Vida Health Communications.

Collaborating with Health Care Providers

While progress has been made, rates of early delivery and elective C-sections are still high in several parts of the country. To help address a financial factor, Aetna is now introducing “blended” hospital payment rates for vaginal and C-section deliveries. A blended payment structure pays hospitals the same amount for vaginal and C-section deliveries, rather than a higher amount for C-sections. Equalizing the payment by increasing rates for vaginal delivery and slightly decreasing rates for C-section, recognizes physicians’ efforts required to support vaginal deliveries while neutralizing any financial incentive for delivery by C-section.

Last year, Aetna expanded efforts with the March of Dimes and The Leapfrog Group to encourage hospitals to adopt policies to limit electively scheduled deliveries until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. Aetna recognizes facilities that have established safety guidelines for electively scheduled deliveries prior to 39 weeks, as well as quality improvement programs. Qualifying hospitals are designated as having an Elective Delivery Infant Safety Program in Aetna’s DocFind® online provider directory. Nearly 300 hospitals have received this designation, and Aetna members who are expectant mothers are informed of hospitals in their area who have achieved this recognition.

“Having a baby is an extremely special time for families. We want to help ensure moms and all the little bundles of joy have the safest and healthiest birth days possible,” Armstrong says.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.1 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services and health information technology services. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see www.aetna.com.

Contact:

Aetna
Tammy Arnold, 713-721-7891
ArnoldTD@aetna.com