Childbirth Tied to Medical Debt, Even Among Commercially Insured Families

Risk for medical debt in collections highest for postpartum individuals living in lowest-income neighborhoods.

HealthDay News — Peripartum out-of-pocket costs are higher than many commercially insured families can afford, leading to medical debt, according to a research letter published online Sept. 28 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Michelle H. Moniz, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues evaluated the association between childbirth and having medical debt in collections. Differences were examined by neighborhood socioeconomic status. The analysis included a statewide cohort of commercially insured pregnant (14,560 individuals) and postpartum (12,157 individuals) adults.

The researchers found that having medical debt in collections was more likely among postpartum individuals versus pregnant individuals (adjusted odds ratio, 1.36) and among those in lowest-income neighborhoods versus all others (adjusted odds ratio, 2.18). The highest predicted probabilities of having medical debt in collections was seen among postpartum individuals in the lowest-income neighborhoods (28.9 percent), followed by pregnant individuals in the lowest-income neighborhoods (23.2 percent), and all other postpartum and pregnant people (16.1 and 12.5 percent, respectively).

“Policies to reduce maternal-infant health care spending among commercially insured individuals may mitigate financial hardship and improve birth equity,” the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)