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Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Jan;79(1):40-5.

The impact of prenatal care on fetal and neonatal death rates for uninsured patients: a "natural experiment" in West Virginia.

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  • 1Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD.


A three-county program in southern West Virginia was developed by an obstetric practice to deliver prenatal care to a population of uninsured patients. Between January 1984 and December 1986, 1331 (29.4%) of 4534 patients were delivered at a level 2 hospital after prenatal care within the clinic program. The hospital-wide fetal death ratio declined from 11.8 to 7.2 per 1000 live births during the years of clinic operation, a statistically significant reduction (P = .02). Uninsured patients experienced a statistically significant reduction in fetal death ratio during the program, from 35.4 to 7.0 per 1000 live births (P = .02), whereas those covered by medical assistance did not experience a reduction. Privately insured patients also had a significant decrease, from 10.0 to 3.1 per 1000 live births (P less than .001). The increasing operating expense, mainly due to rising malpractice insurance premiums, required suspension of the program in December 1986. The fetal death ratio returned to 10.3 deaths per 1000 live births in 1987. Factors that varied significantly during the "clinic" phase included: higher rates of cesarean, diagnosed maternal hypertension, and diabetes mellitus; and lower rates of premature rupture of membranes and non-white population. Other factors, including age over 35 years, postdatism, incidence of twins, incidence of lethal congenital anomalies, and single marital status, did not vary significantly before, during, or after the clinic program. This study identified a high-risk population of patients who did not qualify for medical assistance coverage and were de facto "uninsured." The results suggest that prenatal care for this high-risk population of uninsured patients can reduce the fetal death rate.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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