The largest insurance provider in South Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and the state's Medicaid program will no longer cover the cost of deliveries for women who choose to give birth early for non-medical reasons.
In South Carolina last year, more than ten percent of babies were delivered early. Women asked doctors to induce those births before the recommended 39 weeks. Not because they had to, but for the sake of convenience.
Some women choose to do this because they live far from a hospital and worry they won't be able to get to one in time or they want to make sure their spouse or partner is present during delivery. Sometimes it's just for the doctor's convenience.
BlueCross BlueShield is the state's largest insurer with more than one million clients. The state's Medicaid program serves about the same number of people and pays for half of the cost of pregnancies. Combined, they insure more than 85 percent of births in the state every year.
Anthony Keck is the director of South Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services. He says the state hopes to save millions of dollars by eliminating coverage for these early deliveries. But he says it's more than that.
"The real target was the health savings because South Carolina is at the bottom of the rankings in terms of both infant mortality, pre-term births and also low birth-weight babies," Keck says. "So we really think it is something that's going to help us improve those poor rankings."
With this in mind, the state worked with the hospital association, the March of Dimes and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Keck says he expects other insurance companies to follow.
This policy takes effect January 1. BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina says it has no plans to follow in South Carolina's footsteps.
But there are statewide efforts to stop purely early elective deliveries. One pledge has the support of more than 80 hospitals in North Carolina.