BCBS Association: Postpartum complications more common in Black, Latina women

Serious complications from birth often emerge weeks postpartum, according to a report published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association on June 11. 

These complications, or severe maternal morbidity events, were more common among Black and Latino patients than white patients, the insurer found. These disparities were greater for complications arising in the six weeks after delivery than complications that occur at delivery. 

The association reviewed data from more than 700,000 commercially insured births from BCBS plans and 1.5 million Medicaid births provided by NORC at the University of Chicago, a social research organization. Read more on the methodology here

Five findings to know: 

  1. Rates of severe maternal morbidity events in the first six weeks after delivery were 87% higher among commercially insured Black patients than among their white counterparts. Rates of severe events after birth were 7% higher among Latina patients than white patients.

  2. These disparities were slightly higher in the Medicaid population. Among Black patients with Medicaid, rates of severe maternal morbidity events after birth were 90% higher than among white patients.

  3. Among the commercially insured and Medicaid populations, Black patients were more likely to be hospitalized or visit an emergency department in the six weeks after giving birth, the BCBSA found.

  4. Six conditions — sepsis, pulmonary edema/acute heart failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, acute renal failure, thrombotic embolism and eclampsia — accounted for the majority of several maternal morbidity events in the weeks after childbirth. Black patients had these conditions at higher rates than white and Latina patients.

  5. The BCBSA proposed several action items to improve disparities in post-birth complications. The association called on Congress and CMS to add incentives for state Medicaid programs to get more patients into high-quality perinatal care. The association also proposed funding for federal research on maternal morbidity, and more incentives for insurers to invest in social determinants of health. 

Read the full report here. 

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