INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's Medicaid program no longer will pay for early, elective childbirths beginning July 1 as part of the state's effort to reduce its infant mortality rate, the Family and Social Services Administration announced Monday.
The state-federal health care program for needy families no longer will pay a hospital or physician for the delivery of a child prior to 39 weeks gestation unless it is medically indicated or occurs naturally, the agency announced in conjunction with the Indiana State Department of Health.
"Babies born too small or too early are at greater risk for death in their first year of life," State Health Commissioner William VanNess said in a statement. "Babies' brains develop significantly during the last two weeks of gestation, which is why it's critically important to carry pregnancies full-term, unless medically necessary to induce sooner."
Indiana's infant mortality rate of 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 was the sixth-highest in the nation.
The new policy will affect about 15 births per month in Indiana, FSSA spokesman Jim Gavin said.
Indiana Hospital Association figures show early elective deliveries currently make up less than 3 percent of all deliveries in Indiana, compared to 11 percent in 2012, FSSA said.
A perinatal policy group created by the health department last year recommended the new policy. The new policy aligns with initiatives by the March of Dimes, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Indiana Hospital Association, FSSA said.
When the policy takes effect, Indiana will become the fourth state to eliminate Medicaid payment for early elective deliveries. Medicaid pays for about half of all Indiana births.