Premature babies are focus of Oklahoma Medicaid agency grant

Almost one in five black babies and one in eight American Indian babies in Oklahoma are born early. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will soon partner with three clinics in Oklahoma to help pregnant women have better access to health care for themselves and their babies.
BY JACLYN COSGROVE jcosgrove@opubco.com Published: February 27, 2013
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The average cost of a baby born prematurely in the United States is about $75,000 per week.

The cost if that baby is born at full term? About $1,300.

Health leaders in Oklahoma say too many babies are born early in Oklahoma, a costly problem that the state's Medicaid agency is trying to combat through a new grant.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has received a $320,000 federal grant that the agency will use to serve pregnant women in minority groups in Oklahoma, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

“It was really important to us not to throw more money at the problem,” said Dr. Sylvia Lopez, the chief medical officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma's Medicaid agency. “We actually felt like we could do it and spend less money, so that was a challenge to us, and we looked at ways we might be able to do it.”

Oklahoma has the 46th highest rate of babies born prematurely in the U.S. A total of 13.6 percent of babies born in Oklahoma are born prematurely. Nationwide, 11.7 percent of babies are born premature.

SoonerCare is Oklahoma's Medicaid program. About 26,000 pregnant Oklahoma women were signed up for SoonerCare in January, according to the authority.

Lopez said the authority will partner with three clinic sites that serve SoonerCare members in Oklahoma to implement enhanced prenatal care through what's known as a group visit model.

Under a group visit model, eight to 12 pregnant women will get about two hours of education on topics related to pregnancy and motherhood, Lopez said.

Compared to the 15-minute doctor visit the average pregnant women gets, this is huge, she said.

The partner clinics are Oklahoma City Indian Health Clinic, the Choctaw Nation Tribal Clinic in Talihina and the Oklahoma State University Department of Obstetrics in Tulsa.

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