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Care for New Mothers

December 19, 1995



A SPATE of complaints has erupted recently from physicians and women who believe insurance companies are preventing new mothers from staying in the hospital as long as necessary after giving birth. They complain that insurance companies, trying to keep costs down, are limiting post-natal hospital stays to one day, even though many believe longer stays are necessary.

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On philosophical, not fiscal, grounds, we believe there has been far too much emphasis in past decades on hospital stays for new mothers and their babies. In addition, insurance companies and doctors can cite sound medical reasons for limiting any hospital stay to as few days as necessary. And if the growth of health-care costs is ever to be brought under control, some management of care is inescapable. Yet it seems unwise and inhumane to force a mother, who may be experiencing physical or emotional difficulties, out of the hospital when she and her health-care provider believe she should remain there.

Laws have been introduced in several states that would force insurance companies to pay for longer post-natal hospital stays. The less government intervention in health-care decisions, the better. The best solution would be for companies themselves to see that such decisions are best made on a case-by-case basis by care-giver and mother, and to display more sensitivity and flexibility. If not, they may find that, as in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina, legislators have decided for them.