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David Lansky, President of the Pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH), recently spoke with National Public Radio about employers’ efforts to reduce the high costs of maternity care paid for through their employee health plans.

Lansky points out that much of the costs of maternity care are driven by cesarean births, which average $10,000 more per episode than a normal delivery. Driving down the rate of cesareans—for example, by encouraging insurance carriers to reimburse midwives for low-risk births and using bundled payments to incentivize providers—could reduce a large fraction of payers’ health care expenses.

Reducing the number of unnecessary cesarean deliveries could also decrease surgery complications and lengthy recovery times for many new mothers. As IBI’s analysis of short-term disability (STD) claims in its benchmarking data shows, the average STD leave for a cesarean birth was about nine days longer than a leave for a normal birth, and cost about $900 more in wage replacements. This excludes claims for pregnancy and labor complications—the costliest of all STD pregnancy claims.

Yet another example of how employers’ efforts to manage health care costs by improving care quality could also pay off in better productivity.

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