The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is launching a new Medicaid initiative to help prevent premature births.
The program was launched this week and provides a 24-hour help line and other resources to help mothers carry their babies to term.
Medicaid pays for more than half of the births in Texas. HHSC spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told The Texas Tribune that premature births are especially expensive.
“One of those babies is more than 18 times the cost of a regular newborn,” said Goodman. “If we can reduce that, we can save a lot of money.”
A regular delivery costs about $2,500. Placing a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit costs about $45,000. The state paid $446 million in neonatal costs in 2009.
The new program, “Healthy Moms and Babies,” will identify at-risk women and provide them with information and one-on-one support, as well as the 24-hour hotline. They may also receive calls from a “care coordinator” who will assist them in monitoring the pregnancy, keeping doctor’s appointments and suggesting lifestyle changes to help prevent premature birth and low birth weight.
The state will also work with parents of children in the NICU to help them prepare for caring for the child after they leave the hospital.