Birth is not an outpatient procedure Loophole: Legislature needs to try again on postpartum hospital stays.

February 11, 1996

THIS YEAR THE MARYLAND General Assembly should get it right. Critics of the trend toward ever shorter hospital stays after childbirth thought that legislation passed last year would give new mothers a minimum of two nights in the hospital. But insurers worked in a loophole that most of them have taken advantage of: Instead of a flat requirement of a two-night stay the law also allows an alternative, a home visit by a nurse on the second day after birth.

Home visits are a good idea in any case. But restricting them to only one visit just after the exhausted mother gets home is absurd.

In order to detect possible health problems in the baby and to encourage healthy habits like breast-feeding, insurers should provide at least a two-night stay in the hospital for those who might need it. Some experienced mothers may be eager to get home as soon as possible, but many women desperately need the extra hospital time to recuperate, establish a bond with the new child and gather strength to meet her new responsibilities. Why can't hospitals and insurers find some way to meet this obvious need at a reasonable cost?

Sadly, that kind of challenge doesn't fit the bottom-line thinking on health care these days, despite the fact that a good start for a mother and child can stave off many problems down the line. But if insurers can't see the wisdom in not rushing babies home, then legislators ought to. This year, they should address this problem -- without any disabling loopholes.

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