Category Archives: Women’s Health

How much does it cost to have a baby? Hospital study finds huge price range

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pregnant-money-570By Michelle Andrews
KHN

Which hospital parents pick to deliver their baby can have serious cost consequences, according to a new study.

Hospital costs for women who had no maternal or obstetric risk factors to complicate childbirth ranged from less than $2,000 to nearly $12,000, the analysis of discharge data found. The wide variation in cost means that for expectant parents, it can pay to shop around. Continue reading

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California, Oregon to allow hormonal contraceptives without prescription

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By Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

California and Oregon will be the first states in the nation to allow women to get birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives directly from their pharmacists – without a doctor’s prescription.

As California officials were busy finalizing regulations on a state  law passed in 2013, Oregon’s governor Kate Brown signed a similar bill into law last week.

The two measures were hailed by women’s health advocates. They noted that men have long had an easier time getting birth control, simply purchasing condoms over the counter.

Ken Thai, part-owner and manager of the El Monte Pharmacy Group, says he is excited about the new regulation that will allow him to directly prescribe birth control in his pharmacies in California (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Ken Thai, part-owner and manager of the El Monte Pharmacy Group, says he is excited about the new regulation that will allow him to directly prescribe birth control in his pharmacies in California (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

“We support efforts like these that remove barriers to women gaining access to birth control and other reproductive health care,” said Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California,  in a written statement.

She added that hormonal contraception has been widely studied and shown to be safe – “so safe that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that it be available over the counter.“

The contraceptives won’t be available like cough drops or antacids, however. In California, pharmacists can only dispense them after providing a health screening to women and taking their blood pressure. Oregon will also require a health screening, but the state’s specific rules haven’t been developed. Continue reading

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Obamacare birth control coverage saves women significant money

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CONTRACEPTIVEBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, according to a study released Tuesday.

But the amount of those savings and the speed with which those savings occurred surprised researchers.

The study, in the July issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, found that the average birth control pill user saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect.

The average user of an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248. Those savings represented a significant percentage of average out-of-pocket costs.

“These are healthy women and this on average is their No. 1 need from the health care system,” said Nora Becker, an MD-PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “On average, these women were spending about 30 to 44 percent of their total out of pocket (health) spending just on birth control.” Continue reading

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Doctors order fewer preventive services for Medicaid patients – study finds

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Blue doctorMichelle Andrews
KHN

Gynecologists ordered fewer preventive services for women who were insured by Medicaid than for those with private coverage, a recent study found.

The study by researchers at the Urban Institute examined how office-based primary care practices provided five recommended preventive services over a five-year period.

The services were clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, mammograms, Pap tests and depression screening.

The study used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a federal health database of services provided by physicians in office-based settings.

It looked at 12,444 visits to primary care practitioners by privately insured women and 1,519 visits by women who were covered by Medicaid between 2006 and 2010.

That difference reflects the fact that the share of women who are privately insured is seven times larger than those on Medicaid, the researchers said. Pregnancy-related visits and visits to clinics were excluded from the analysis.

Overall, 26 percent of the visits by women with Medicaid included at least one of the five services, compared with 31 percent of the visits by privately insured women. Continue reading

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FDA Panel Endorses Women’s Libido Pill – WebMD

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fda-logo-thumbnailAn advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended approval Thursday of what many call the “female Viagra” pill.

The panel voted 18-6 that the FDA grant approval to the drug, flibanseri, which is designed to boost a lack of sexual desire in premenopausal women.

However, the panel members who voted yes said full FDA approval should come with certain conditions.

Source: FDA Panel Endorses Women’s Libido Pill – WebMD

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Telemedicine under attack as abortion rights supporters seek more options for women

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Photo by Brainloc

By Michelle Andrews
KHN

The House of Representatives’ approval last week of a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks brings into sharp focus the issue of early access to abortion.

Abortion rights supporters say more than a dozen states have banned one option that could improve early access: telemedicine.

Opponents say that “webcam” abortions are unsafe and suggest that clinics are using them as moneymakers.

Iowa and Minnesota are the only states that offer so-called “telemed” abortions. Women who choose this option confer with a doctor through an Internet video connection and can then be prescribed two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which when taken in sequence induce an abortion. Women who opt for a medication abortion can be no more than nine weeks into their pregnancy.

Supporters of telemed abortions say it increases the odds that a woman will be able to get an abortion earlier in her pregnancy, when the procedure is safer and cheaper, and in areas where providers are stretched thin.

In 2011, 89 percent of counties nationwide had no clinics that provided abortion services, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and more than a third of women of childbearing age lived in those counties.

Opponents say that “webcam” abortions are unsafe and suggest that clinics are using them as moneymakers to boost the number of abortions they can provide.

Photo courtesy of Brain Loc

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‘Free’ contraception means ‘free,’ Obama administration tells insurers

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Birth control patch - Photo by John Heilman, MD under creative commons licesnse

Birth control patch – Photo by John Heilman, MD (CC)

By Phil  Galewitz
KHN

Free means free.

The Obama administration said Monday that health plans must offer for free at least one of every type of prescription birth control — clarifying regulations that left some insurers misinterpreting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

“Today’s guidance seeks to eliminate any ambiguity,” the Health and Human Services Department said. “Insurers must cover without cost-sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods that the Food and Drug Administration has identified … including the ring, the patch and intrauterine devices.”

The ruling comes after reports by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group, found many insurers were not providing no-cost birth control for all prescription methods. (KHN is an editorially independent project of the Kaiser Family Foundation.) Continue reading

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Home visits by nurses for first-time mothers help reduce costs

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Symphonie Dawson and her son Andrew.

By Michelle Andrews
KHN

Symphonie Dawson was 23 and studying to be a paralegal while working part-time for a temporary staffing agency when she learned that the reason she kept feeling sick was because she was pregnant.

Living with her mom and two siblings near Dallas, Dawson worried about what to expect during pregnancy and what giving birth would be like, not to mention how to juggle having a baby with being in school.

(Photo courtesy of Symphonie Dawson)

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How one hospital brought its C-sections down in a hurry

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In 2012, Hoag Hospital’s cesarean section rate was about 38 percent – five percent higher than the state average.  The Newport Beach hospital has been working to lower the amount of c-sections by stepping up data analysis and patient education (Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

In 2012, Hoag Hospital’s cesarean section rate was about 38 percent – five percent higher than the state average.(Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Anna Gorman
KHN

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.— Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, one of the largest and most respected facilities in Orange County, needed to move quickly.

A big insurer had warned that its maternity costs were too high and it might be cut from the plan’s network. The reason? Too many cesarean sections.

“We were under intense scrutiny,” said Dr. Allyson Brooks, executive medical director of Hoag’s women’s health institute.

The C-section rate at the time, in early 2012, was about 38 percent. That was higher than the state average of 33 percent and above most others in the area, according to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, which seeks to use data to improve birth outcomes.

Within three years, Hoag had lowered its cesarean section rates for all women to just over a third of all births. For low-risk births (first-time moms with single, normal pregnancies), the rate dropped to about a quarter of births. Hoag also increased the percentage of women who had vaginal births after delivering previous children by C-section.

In medicine, this qualifies as a quick turnaround. And the story of how Hoag changed sheds light on what it takes to rapidly improve a hospital’s performance of crucial services, to the benefit of patients, insurers and taxpayers.

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More evidence health plans stint on mandated birth control coverage

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Woman's HeadBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Women’s health advocates were thrilled when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, because it required insurance companies to cover a broad array of women’s health services at no additional out-of-pocket cost beyond premiums.

Five years later, however, that requirement is not being enforced, according to two new studies. Health insurance plans around the country are failing to provide many of those legally-mandated services including birth control and cancer screenings.

The studies by the National Women’s Law Center looked at health plan coverage documents and consumer complaints in 15 states. One of the studies focused on contraception, while the other looked at a range of women’s health issues, including maternity care, breast-feeding support and other services.

“We found some very clear violations of the law,” said Karen Davenport, the group’s director of health policy. Among the companies named as not complying with the law’s requirements in at least some states are Aetna, Cigna, Physicians Plus and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Continue reading

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Women’s Group Says Insurers Aren’t Meeting Health-Law Requirements – WSJ

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Woman's HeadThe National Women’s Law Center, a feminist group that strongly backs the health law, said in a report that it had found widespread violations across more than a dozen states where it investigated new plans sold on the exchanges.

The center, which is based in Washington, D.C., also said it had received complaints on a hotline from women in every state about how the rules were working, including in coverage provided by an employer.

Source: Women’s Group Says Insurers Aren’t Meeting Health-Law Requirements – WSJ

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Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study – WebMD

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Blue Pregnant BellyUse of prescription narcotic painkillers is common in pregnancy and increases the likelihood a baby will be born small or early, or go through painful drug withdrawal, a new study finds.

These prescription painkillers, also called opioids, include drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin), codeine and morphine.

Nearly 30 percent of the Tennessee mothers-to-be in the new study used at least one of these drugs while pregnant, and the associated risks went up if they also smoked or took antidepressants.

via Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study – WebMD.

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