Not many years ago, pediatricians were up in arms when insurance companies cut hospital stays for new mothers to four days. Four days was not enough time for women to recover from childbirth and help them get a good start as a mother. Nor was the shortened stay long enough to monitor jaundice or other problems of newborns.
Now, four days in the hospital after childbirth is an unaffordable luxury. What was once considered unthinkable -- a mere 24 hours of hospitalization after childbirth -- is the maximum stay covered by many health insurance plans. In describing the new policies, reporter Patricia Meisol quoted one frustrated young mother as predicting childbirth will eventually become another outpatient procedure. That might be acceptable for uncomplicated deliveries if there were any reliable system of offering new parents visiting nurses or other support during the first days after a birth. Such arrangements are integral to other health care systems.
New families are learning the rising cost of health insurance premiums doesn't necessarily mean better care. In attempting to contain costs, health insurers are shifting the burden to families, who must take on the responsibility -- and the expense -- of making sure their newborn gets follow-up medical treatment.